This article first appeared in the Vail Daily on December 3, 2020.
It was a year ago to the day that I heard the unwanted words from my doctor: “You have cancer.”
I knew something wasn’t right with my body because I was having trouble holding down food and was losing weight uncontrollably. The journey of survival began as I underwent chemotherapy for six weeks at the Shaw Cancer Center in Edwards.
I was unable to work at my career as a professional fitness trainer. Where I was previously the guy that helped people in all aspects of health and fitness, whether it was to lose weight, increase endurance, gain self-confidence or to build muscle and get stronger — now I was the guy in need of help.
My world was quickly closing in on me, and I was wondering how I was going to survive this prognosis physically, mentally and financially. The care team at the Shaw Cancer Center was there for me in so many ways — from the doctors and nurses to the social workers and volunteers. Their support and guidance helped give me the courage to move forward in a positive way and for that, I am so grateful.
In fact, the team of social workers told me about a grant I could apply for through the Vail Valley Charitable Fund to help me with paying rent and other medical expenses that I was about to endure. Shortly after I submitted an application for the grant, I received a phone call from the VVCF telling me that I qualified for the grant and within a week I got a check in the mail from them. For that, I am so grateful.
In addition to the support I received from Shaw and the VVCF, I can’t omit recognition for the community in which I live. Living in the Vail Valley for 30 years, I have met so many wonderful and caring people who have gone over and above the call of duty to help get me through this phase of my life. These people who I am honored to call my friends have donated so much of their time and effort to help me by dropping off food at my house, taking me to doctor appointments, donating money to help me pay my rent and other bills and just being there for me when I needed someone to talk to, and for that, I am so grateful.
After my first six-week round of chemotherapy, I had a little break and then COVID-19 hit. I felt the challenge of staying positive.
As a community, we all have felt this challenge, but having cancer on top of this really put me in a funk. As a health compromised-individual, I had to isolate myself so I too would not contract the virus.
The next phase of my treatment was five weeks of chemotherapy and radiation. This was in preparation for the final part of the treatment, which would be an intense surgery in Denver at UC Health. After 12 days in the hospital, I was able to go home to recover from the 8-hour surgery, only to find out a couple days later that they found microscopic cancer cells in some fluid that built up around my lungs from the surgery.
It was because of the surgery that they discovered these small cells and I feel that If I didn’t have the surgery, the cancer cells wouldn’t have gone unnoticed until it was possibly too late.
Now I am being treated again with more chemotherapy at Shaw to get rid of the fluid and the microscopic cancer cells. After 12 weeks of treatments, my doctors are telling me that the chemotherapy is working and for that, I am so grateful.
Every day is a gift and I practice gratitude every morning, noon and night. Having an “attitude of gratitude” has helped me stay positive, and eventually, I will be cancer-free. Thank you to the Vail Valley Charitable Fund and all of my friends and family that have helped me so much. I am forever grateful, and I love you all.
Joel Weinstein is a recipient of a grant from the Vail Valley Charitable Fund. Find out more about the VVCF’s mission at http://vvcf.org/.