Cheering for the Denver Nuggets has helped Ben Peter set aside cancer worries.
And watching nearly every game for years has bonded the 62-year-old with his son, Jonathan Peter, 22, a lifelong Nuggets fan and college senior who hopes to work as a sports journalist.
The Nuggets have won their first NBA championship in the franchise’s history, and Ben and Jonathan got to cheer for their hometown team in person at Game 1 of the NBA Finals.
The tickets were a surprise when Ben arrived for a regular appointment at the UCHealth Cancer Center at Highlands Ranch Hospital.
The Nuggets game was due to start hours later in downtown Denver. Suddenly, Bill Hanzlik, a beloved former Nuggets player and current team analyst, burst into the hospital and surprised the father and son with two coveted tickets to that night’s game.
“I’m beyond excited,” Ben said. “We couldn’t have asked for anything better.”
Added Jonathan: “He had been searching for tickets. This is a dream come true. We did not expect this. We have followed the team for years — for my entire life. And to reach this peak, it means a lot.”
Ben was wearing a #15 jersey in honor of Nuggets star Nikola Jokić.
“We are lucky to have him,” Ben said.
“This is such a special team,” added Jonathan.
Ben has been battling Stage IV colon cancer since early in 2017.
Through multiple surgeries and aggressive chemotherapy treatments, doctors have kept Ben’s cancer at bay, sometimes for as long as two years. But it keeps coming back. So, Ben has to get chemotherapy treatments every other week.
During treatment weeks, he comes on Mondays for a session at the hospital infusion center that lasts about five hours, then wears a chemotherapy pump home and returns 48 hours later to get the pump removed.
Teresa Griffin, one of Ben’s nurses, gets tears in her eyes as she thinks about how often Ben has to come in for treatments.
“We see him a lot,” she said.
Even so, Ben’s always kind and positive.
Griffin was thrilled that the Nuggets and UCHealth honored Ben and Jonathan with tickets to a Finals game.
“We’re usually part of their worst days. It’s great to be part of a better day,” Griffin said. “It’s great to see him have a really special experience. He’s such a great guy. He’s gracious and grateful, and kind. You don’t even know if he’s having a bad day. He always brings his best self. I don’t know how he does it. I really admire him.”
Ben used to work as a project manager for IBM and, before that, worked for Direct TV, where he now watches Nuggets games. Due to his health challenges, he had to retire from his job.
Ben grew up in India and moved to Denver in 1988. He’s always been a sports fan and grew to love basketball more and more as Jonathan became a devoted Nuggets fan.
Now, with so many medical challenges, watching Nuggets games and dissecting key plays buoys Ben’s spirits.
“It’s really a delight and a distraction,” Ben said. “I had to quit my job last June. I have a lot of time on my hands now. To stay up with Jonathan (who has a blog), I watch the games and go back and re-watch them sometimes.”
Ben also receives key support from his wife, Anne, and his daughter, Jennifer. And he belongs to a church where he plays a lot of Ping-Pong.
“It’s tough, but at the same time, if you have a good support system and people who care, you can get through it,” Ben said.
Added Jonathan: “Everybody gets dealt a different card, and you have to deal with it. It’s incredible that he can take the treatments and doesn’t have really bad side effects or immobility. We take one treatment at a time.”
Ben’s key advice: “Keep a positive attitude. Always look out for others. Don’t concentrate too much on yourself. Every day is a blessing.”
And follow a winning team.
The Nuggets’ exciting season and championship has meant a lot to the Peter family and to the community as a whole.
“We’re all so proud of these guys,” Jonathan said,