Cyclist is on the road again, thanks to cancer care at Aspen Valley Hospital
A bicyclist is diagnosed with a dangerous form of cancer. Undaunted, he resolutely begins an aggressive treatment regimen, thrives despite the disease, and returns to the sport he loves.
Sound familiar? This could be the story of Lance Armstrong. Instead, it is the story of Peter Kelley, a long-time Aspen real estate agent who chose Aspen Valley Hospital (AVH) for his cancer treatment. “I could have gone to UCLA or to MD Anderson Cancer Center, but I would’ve been in Los Angeles or Houston, not knowing anyone there,” Peter says of his decision to stay close to home. “To be here in Aspen and not disrupt my family’s life — that was important.”
Peter is not the kind of person you’d expect to get cancer. He cycles about 3,000 miles a year, mostly at high altitudes, as well as snow skis and water skis.
But in November 2008, he learned that he had stage III non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. In considering treatment options, Peter consulted his oncologist, Doug Rovira, MD, on the medical staff at AVH, as well as Basalt internist David Borchers, MD, who convinced Peter to have the biopsy at AVH that led to the diagnosis. Peter also talked with his wife and daughter, and he thought about needing to be back in shape, if possible, for a biking trip in Italy the following summer.
Peter describes his choice of AVH as “a leap of faith.” Over the years, he had been treated at AVH for concussions, broken ribs, and other injuries that often come with an active life. Battling cancer is different, but he feels that he made the right decision.
“I care about having a doctor with expertise, and Dr. Rovira has that kind of expertise,” Peter says. “Nancee Dodge and Siobhan Conway (nurses in AVH’s oncology department who administer chemotherapy and other infusions) were fabulous. If I could powder ski in the morning before a treatment or had an appointment regarding Aspen real estate, I would call and tell them, ‘I can’t come in until noon,’ and they would laugh with me. I wasn’t receiving care from people for whom I was a number.”
Peter began chemotherapy in early December 2008 and finished in late March 2009. The treatment was “pretty rough,” but after the minimum number of treatments the cancer went into remission. Three subsequent PET scans have shown no evidence of disease. He knows that his cancer may not be curable, “which really makes each day even sweeter,” he says.
Peter kept cycling and skiing throughout his regimen (as well as keeping his real estate business going), reaching the summit of Highland Peak on a “powder day” within hours of having received his third treatment. One time, he even met that other bicyclist who famously battled cancer.
Lance Armstrong was in the area while recuperating from an injury in early 2009. As Peter tells the story, “It was the last day of ski season and I wanted to ski, but my wife said, ‘Let’s ride. Maybe we’ll see Lance.’ And that day, we wound up seeing him and got to ride with him from Woody Creek down to Basalt.” Peter pauses a moment before adding, “It was a tremendous experience. He was very gracious.”
No surprise, then, that Peter has set a goal of raising $35,000 for LIVESTRONG this year, to benefit Armstrong’s charitable foundation, and he plans to participate in the Austin LIVESTRONG Challenge, in October.
“A little defiance on my part and a lot of superb care at Aspen Valley Hospital, got me down the road to where I am today,” he says. “I’m looking to the future — and fortunately, I’ve got one.”