The same week that 25-year-old cancer survivor Paul Lemieux rides in his 10th Courage Classic bike tour, he will mark another significant milestone – one that is life-affirming, but also bittersweet.
After nearly 15 years of treatments and checkups with pediatric oncologist Dr. Nick Foreman, Paul will have his last appointment at Children’s Hospital Colorado on July 21, marking the end of his time at as a patient here.
In 2002, when Paul was 11 years old, he was diagnosed with primary intracranial choriocarcinoma, an aggressive cancerous tumor in his brain.
Paul’s journey began after he started throwing up for days on end. When a CAT scan at a Boulder clinic revealed a mass in his brain, doctors initially thought the tumor was benign. But by the time he arrived at the emergency department at Children’s Colorado later that day, his caregivers began to suspect it could be something even more serious.
Doctors performed surgery on Paul that evening to relieve the pressure on his brain and conduct a biopsy, which revealed that the growth was malignant. After staying in the hospital for two weeks, undergoing six rounds of chemotherapy and five weeks of radiation, Paul got great news from his doctors in May 2003: his cancer was in remission.
That summer, Daniel Kapsack, the husband of Paul’s elementary school history teacher, encouraged Paul to ride in the Courage Classic. Daniel, owner of the Kapsak Law Firm, was riding with a group of lawyers that would later become the foundation for the Wheels of Justice team, Courage Classic’s largest fundraising group.
Paul and his father, Tom, rode together that first year. “My first ride was incredible,” said Paul. “It had a great sense of camaraderie.”
Although Paul will still need scans every several years to ensure that his brain cancer remains in remission, his follow-up appointments will now take place at an adult healthcare facility. And while one chapter of his connection to Children’s Colorado is coming to a close, another has begun.
In November 2015, Paul joined the medical staff at Children’s Colorado, working in the emergency department as a certified medical technician (CMT). These days, he’s busy studying and applying to medical schools. He wants to become a doctor, specifically a pediatrician, either practicing emergency room medicine or oncology. He’s leaning toward oncology, because he wants to develop long-term bonds and relationships with his patients – just like he has had with Dr. Foreman, one of the world’s foremost experts in pediatric brain tumors – and give back to the hospital that has given him so much.
That’s also the reason Paul and his father continue to ride in the Courage Classic with the Wheels of Justice team, which raises money for the Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders – to try to give back. “Everyone up there has their own connection to Children’s Colorado, which is awesome,” Paul said. “It’s great to hear everyone’s gratitude toward the hospital and be a part of it.”