Glenwood Springs cancer survivor rides for Children’s Hospital |

Glenwood Springs cancer survivor rides for Children’s Hospital

Kay Vasilakis
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Chad Spangler/ Post Independent

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado ” Glenwood Springs native Kelsey Bohman has gone through some extraordinarily tough times in the past nine years. She was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia (AML) when she was 11.

Nineteen-year-old Kelsey will be riding 157 miles through the Colorado Rockies in the Courage Classic in support of The Children’s Hospital July 26-28. This will be her seventh year riding in the event, and her eighth year of being cancer-free after chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant at Children’s Hospital in Denver.

AML starts in the bone marrow (the soft inner part of the bones, where new blood cells are made), but in most cases it quickly moves into the blood. It can sometimes spread to other parts of the body including the lymph nodes, liver, spleen, central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) and testes.

Nine months of chemotherapy started in September 2000 at Children’s Hospital, followed by a bone marrow transplant from her father. Once-a-month trips for two years for immunosuppressants were required, and she still has check-ups at the hospital.

“Mostly I remember how the nurses, docs and others on my medical team were more like my friends,” Kelsey said. “I thought cancer was supposed to be scary. Well, some days were hard, but there were some pretty cool days, too.”

Kelsey received wonderful care from the nurses and the doctors, who would also take time to play games and visit. A group of nurses even tried to steal her from the hospital to take her to a movie. Because of the depth of specialized care, she considers her medical team part of her family and keeps in touch with most of them. She is especially close to her child life specialist, Tommi McHugh, who is one of her heroes, along with Mia Hamm and, of course, cancer survivor and Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong. She wears a Lance Armstrong “Live Strong” bracelet every day.

Kelsey truly appreciated the support of her friends and family back in Glenwood, who did a great job of keeping her spirits up. Kelsey’s parents are John and Pat Bohman, and she has an older sister, Kristin.

“It seems like I opened a gift from one of them almost every day,” she recalled. “My mom was there at the hospital with me the whole time. I know she was scared, but she did a good job of hiding it. Dad was my donor. He and my sister stayed at home to work and go to school. They came to stay with us on most weekends.”

Kelsey became involved in the Courage Classic after her transplant doctor, Roger Giller, talked to her about his riding in the event every year.

“My mom loves to ride, and thought it would be a good idea to join as a way to give back to Children’s and be an ambassador for the hospital. I first rode in 2002. I was still on the road to recovery, so I was not able to ride the entire way. It was a blast, so we just keep going back.”

Kelsey set a goal for herself of raising $8,000 for the ride this year. In her past six years of participation, she has raised a total of $12,174.90 ” in the platinum fundraising level.

“Every year it is always tough to set a goal,” she said. “This year I just decided to go big. … I want to be a top fundraiser and show people that I am living or ‘riding’ proof of how great The Children’s Hospital is.”

She wants to give back to the hospital and all the people who helped her. Kelsey and her family have started a foundation, Kelsey’s Kids, which gives handmade marshmallow launchers to young patients in the Children’s Hospital oncology unit, to have some fun while experiencing emotionally difficult times (see related story).

Kelsey graduated from Glenwood Springs High School in 2007. She is studying social work and human development with a focus on child life at CSU, and hopes to graduate in 2011.

Kelsey enjoys hanging out with her friends, listening to music, riding her bike and her job, which is working at Kid Kare at the Glenwood Springs Community Center. She also coaches Mighty Might soccer and Bitty Batters.

“I really love my job and my coaching, because all I do is play all day,” she said.

Kelsey appreciates many of the things we take for granted and doesn’t want any moment to pass her by.

“Whether I am hanging out with my friends, doing homework, or whatever, I register each moment as a moment that I have done something worthwhile,” she concluded.

Through this emotional and physical journey, Kelsey has come out on top and will undoubtedly create a meaningful and charitable life for herself.

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