Breckenridge attorney fends off death with holistic living
summit daily news
Summit County, CO Colorado
BRECKENRIDGE ” Jay Bauer was given four months to live more than a year ago.
At 64, the Breckenridge attorney is living with stage IV melanoma ” cancer found on his skin that’s spread to his liver and abdomen.
He’s spent the past year trekking through Bhutan, bicycling 700 miles of the Pacific Northwest and sightseeing in Washington, D.C.
“I feel like a million bucks,” he said. “The fringe benefits from cancer for me have been enormous. … When I see people I consciously am aware of the fact that I might never see them again, and it heightens the experience.”
Bauer lives in Summit Cove and has had a practice in Breckenridge for 35 years. He’s emceed numerous auctions and charity events and was active in several organizations until the cancer diagnosis.
He said that one thing most doctors agree upon is that “melanoma really likes being in a stressful environment.”
So Bauer shed many of his former responsibilities, focused on eating healthy and checking off items on his “bucket list.”
He’s already planned a 10-day bicycle trip this May from the Great Sand Dunes National Park through Santa Fe to Durango. He’d also like to walk the entire Colorado Trail.
Doctors have suggested chemotherapy and even some experimental treatments to combat the cancer. But Bauer credits much of his present condition to the holistic approach his wife introduced to him.
“If you ever go down to the oncology center and have to wait and look around at the people who are there, you’re like ” my God,” he said. “Some of the effects you see are not from the cancer. They’re from the treatment.”
Bauer met his wife, Joni, through an uncanny coincidence.
“About three years ago this week, I met a woman quite by chance. I was up in the Quandary Subdivision,” he said, adding that he couldn’t seem to find a piece of property for which he was searching. “A car came up and a window rolled down and there was this woman inside, and she asked me if I was lost.”
A month or two later, they started dating. It was early in their relationship that Joni pointed out a “little red spot on my neck,” Bauer said.
He had it checked and the doctor took a biopsy.
“I had stage II or III melanoma,” Bauer said. “There’s only four stages, and I think the fifth stage is actually horizontal ” I’m not sure about that.”
Joni and Jay have been married nearly two years. Joni, also 64, grew up eating healthy and living holistically.
“I’ve always believed that if you take care of the mind, body, thoughts and spirit, you live a more healthy, more vigorous life,” she said. “It’s not that we aren’t acknowledging there are some cancer cells around in there, but we’re not focusing on cancer.”
About 90 percent of their diet is organic, and it’s almost totally dairy-free. She said Jay checks his pH levels every day to make sure there’s not too much acid in his system.
They drink Rice Dream rather than milk and take “extra greens in powdered form” in a shake each morning.
Jay also uses acupuncture.
“We are not grabbing everything that comes our way,” Joni said. “We are very open to hearing stuff, but we believe strongly in a simple approach of whole foods and getting rid of extraneous activities and thoughts and people ” and this is what’s working for us.”
She said the frequent adventures and health-conscious diet are “of course not a formula that might work for someone else in the same way,” but that it seems to have made a difference for her husband.
Joni said the two had talked about using some trial therapies they’d heard of through doctors but decided it wasn’t the route they wanted to take.
She said that today, despite the cancer, Jay has shed some fat, and the loving relationship has perhaps also had an impact on the cancer’s grip.
“The doctor really expected it to spread and kill him,” she said.
She said the two always “keep a carrot out there,” and they’re always planning more adventures to “keep our life rolling along.”
“We are newlyweds, so we are still in that great place and still totally excited about and appreciative and grateful that we found each other.”
Jay Bauer said his wife has been an “enormous” support as a caregiver and coach through the entire journey.
With the cancer popping up in different places ” Bauer has had a number of medical procedures to fight it ” the future offers no guarantees.
Last month Bauer received radiation treatment for a walnut-sized tumor in his abdomen.
He compares his perspective with the night before a college student’s final exam, with his thinking “very focused.”
“The idea of having something pending where your doctor tells you you have a limited amount of time is a remarkable way to get you to focus on what’s important to you ” to separate the wheat from the chaff,” he said.
People are sometimes surprised to see him still working and traveling.
“I had a friend walk in (to his office) and say, ‘I thought you were dead,'” Jay Bauer said.
He said he doesn’t plan to retire any time soon.
A couple weeks ago, he went swing-dancing and jitter-bugging at the Mercury Cafe in Denver .
He said he would advise anyone recently diagnosed with cancer to be close to their loved ones.
From a previous marriage, he has an son, Jeff, an accountant in Dallas, and a stepson, Rick Jones, who installs car stereos in Phoenix.
Jay Bauer recommends “listening very closely to what your body’s trying to tell you” and keeping things in balance.
“I’m positive ” as was my doctor ” that being the pale face that I am, it’s related to being in the sun too much,” he said of his cancer.
Though some cancer patients “just give up,” Jay Bauer takes his own approach:
“Live boldly and play ’em like you got ’em.”
Robert Allen can be contacted at (970) 668-4628 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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