Beating cancer on a bulldozer |

Beating cancer on a bulldozer

Matt Terrell
Vail CO, Colorado

EDWARDS ” It’s hard to think about cancer on a growling bulldozer.

There are too many levers and pedals ” too many trucks bounding by with mounds of dirt. The thing weighs a few tons and is pretty loud. You can’t hear yourself think. Excavating is fast work, says Ronald Baker, and if you’re distracted, someone could get hurt.

Every day at 6:30 a.m. Baker starts up his rig at the large dirt field in Edwards ” the B and B Excavation site. Sometime after 3, he takes a break. He drives back to the Shaw Cancer Center where’s he’s shot up with radiation.

It’s probably the only time of day he thinks about his illness.

An hour later, he’s back at work, moving dirt from one place to the next. When it’s quitting time, he stays at Jack’s House, a temporary home for people needing long-term cancer treatment. He has four or five more weeks to go.

Baker is the only person in Jack’s House right now. His evenings are pretty quiet. He doesn’t watch much TV and would rather spend his time looking out on Edwards, at the busy town below and the mountains above. The view is great. He eats leftover spaghetti sauce made from ground elk ” food that reminds him of home.

The next morning, he gets up early and does it all again.

“The people who do better are the people who stay busy,” he says.

Baker, 70, has known for years that his prostate wasn’t doing so well, but it was just three months ago that a doctor told him he needed radiation treatment for cancer.

He lives with his wife Judy on a secluded ranch in Del Norte, Colo., where he rides horses and takes people on guided hunting trips in the winter. There’s not much of a treatment center there, so he was referred to Jack’s House, a place he could live and even find a job to keep busy during radiation treatments.

So far, the prognosis is good, and doctors tell him he’ll be fine. He doesn’t think about death ” as far as he’s concerned, he’s cured.

Still, cancer can make you a bit reflective, and he can’t help but examine his life. After growing up in Massachusetts, he went on to see just about everything there is to see. He spent most of his days traveling, doing electrical work in Iran, Turkey and even Hokkaido, the northernmost island of Japan.

He even operated a sport-fishing business for five years in Mexico, where he and his wife Judy met Michael, an orphan in need of a home. They adopted him when he was 14.

They have seven children altogether, who have scattered from California to New Jersey.

Too many years of traveling eventually dulled his taste for it. He prefers life at home on the ranch now. He likes that you can’t see any highways from the green valley where his ranch sits. There is that one light eight miles away you can see at night ” he doesn’t know where it comes from, but it’s not much of a bother.

In a few more weeks, he can go home for good. Baker says he feels blessed to have found a place like the Shaw Cancer Center and Jack’s House.

“The people here are so caring, you can’t help but feel positive,” he said.

Staff writer Matt Terrell can be reached at 748-2955 or

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