Justin Boley shines in special moment

Cancer patient has spirit of an Olympian
August 16th, 2016

Justin Boley lit the Olympic torch and took a run for his life — his stride carrying him down Boulder Street, past UCHealth Memorial Hospital, where he comes every other Monday for chemotherapy.

That Boley ran is triumphant enough. The cancer that has moved from his brain to his spine is a formidable opponent. In the days since he found out he had a terminal cancer, Boley has been running his life with the same kind of vigor, determination and enthusiasm that drives an Olympic athlete.
His prize is not gold or silver but each day.

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Onlookers in the U.S. Olympic Committee headquarters on Tejon Street in downtown Colorado Springs watch a celebration held to open the Olympic Games in Rio.

“If you have any kind of terminal illness or something wrong with you, you can’t focus on that,’’ Justin said. “You have to focus on your survival and living the best life that you possibly can. Just don’t give up, ever, and live your life to the fullest.”

The 24-year-old lit the flame as part of UCHealth’s Moments to Shine program – a way to provide a special experience for patients through sports sponsorships. A sponsorship with the Colorado Springs Sports Corp. and UCHealth enabled Boley to participate in the Torch Run.

“It was awesome,’’ Justin said. “Being able to actually meet Olympians was pretty dang cool. It’s is quite an honor and it was very unexpected.’’

Diagnosed with terminal brain cancer in February 2015, Boley feels strongly about encouraging other people with terminal illness not to give up, and to take advantage of every day. He had brain surgery on his 23rd birthday, and later learned that he had glioblastoma, a cancer that grows rapidly and has no cure. In the following weeks, Boley’s tumor was reduced by a combination of chemo and radiation and a device called Optune, which targets dividing cancer cells. But glio cancer cells inevitably produce reoccurring tumors, and Boley learned in March that the cancer had spread to his spinal cord.

Except for one round of radiation treatment at UCHealth’s Lone Tree Health Center, Boley has received all of his treatment at Memorial, where he and his mother, Brandy, were once employed.

“Memorial has pretty much never steered me wrong,’’ Justin said.

Brandy said that Dr. Robert Hoyer, an oncologist; and Dr. Todd Thompson, a neurosurgeon, have been terrific doctors.

“We’ve been very impressed by them. … Dr. Thompson, he’s a spiffy dresser, and he knows how to talk to a person and explain to you what’s happening in ways that you can understand. He talks to Justin and doesn’t talk around him.’’

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Justin Boley, 24, lights the torch for a community celebration in Colorado Springs opening the Olympic Games in Rio. Boley, a cancer patient at UCHealth Memorial Hospital, was part of a ‘Moments to Shine’ program to provide a special experience for patients through sports sponsorships.

“When we go to Memorial, it’s almost like we’re going to see our friends,’’ Justin said.

Being part of an Olympic experience is just one of the cool experiences Justin has embraced.

“I was running down the street recording the whole thing,’’ Brandy said. “The excitement was compounded by seeing him run — that he was physically able to do that was rewarding.’’

Since his diagnosis, Justin has traveled to Australia – his favorite moment – and gone sky diving and surfing. He’s also planning a trip to California to meet up with some of his old friends and to live life to the fullest.

About the author

Erin Emery is editor of UCHealth Today, a hub for medical news, inspiring patient stories and tips for healthy living. Erin spent years as a reporter for The Denver Post, Colorado Springs Gazette and Colorado Springs Sun. She was part of a team of Denver Post reporters who won the 2000 Pulitzer Prize for breaking news reporting.

Erin joined UCHealth in 2008, and she is awed by the strength of patients and their stories.