LUNG FORCE Heroes
On a full moon night, walking on a beach in Puerto Morelos, Scott asked me to marry him. And just ten days later, when we had returned home to Montana from traveling in Mexico and then the UK to visit Scott's family, Scott was diagnosed with terminal non-small cell lung cancer.
We were 41 and active non-smokers, so it was utterly unexpected. Scott was a professor, marathon runner, cyclist, skier, and backpacker who had never smoked. Determined to live fully despite the disease, we got married the day after his diagnosis. For our entire nearly five years of married life, Scott would be in treatment with a couple brief "chemo holidays."
Cancer would color our life together. Scott continued to teach and do research at the university and I continued my work in conservation. We explored Wales for five months while he was on sabbatical. We took extended treks in Morocco and Peru, hiked and explored Croatia, Slovenia, Spain, the Czech Republic, England, and Scotland. The day after his last infusion of his first round of chemotherapy, we headed out on a backpack trip in the Anaconda-Pintler Wilderness. In the midst of chemotherapy, he ran/swam/cycled his first and second triathlon. Between chemo sessions, and as a fundraiser for Fit To Fight Montana (a program that works with cancer patients and survivors to regain strength and trust in their bodies), Scott climbed Mt. Rainier.
Scott was remarkably and quietly strong, with the grit to live life on his own terms in the face of his terminal diagnosis. Lung cancer motivated us to grab hold of life and jam-pack our few years together with love and adventure. I suppose I should not have been caught unaware, but it was indeed a shock when Scott's health took a sudden turn for the worse. He died not long after that turn. More than five years after Scott died, I continue to wonder what he could have done, who he might have inspired, and what our life together might have been, had his life not been so curtailed by this too-often- fatal disease. And I know he continues to inspire me and many others who were lucky enough to know Scott.
First published: December 19, 2017
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