Steamboat resident recovers from cancer, rediscovers her passions, performs at Pink Vail
If you go …
What: Pink Vail.
When: Saturday, April 2; check-in opens at 8:30 a.m.
Where: Pink Vail Headquarters is located at the top of the Eagle Bahn Gondola at Eagle’s Nest, out of Lionshead Village.
Cost: $25 to register; suggested fundraising goal of $250 per person.
More information: To register, donate or volunteer for Pink Vail, visit http://www.pinkvail.com.
Editor’s note: This is the second in a series of articles about cancer survivors leading up to Pink Vail, the world’s biggest ski day to conquer cancer, on Saturday, April 2.
“It was shocking, terrifying, humiliating, devastating — all at the same time,” Betsy Seabert said of hearing her cancer diagnosis. She was at work when she received the call from her doctor and said she began sobbing uncontrollably. “It’s the scariest news to hear.”
A Colorado native, Seabert is a self-professed “mountain girl” whose family moved from Littleton to Leadville, where she attended high school, and she has lived in Steamboat for the past 16 years. She loves hiking, camping, paddleboarding and living in the woods for a week at a time in a pop-up trailer originally owned by her parents. She’s also a musician — just like her parents, her seven sisters, her husband and her two sons.
When Seabert was diagnosed with breast cancer, one of her sisters suggested a cancer center in Littleton, where she pursued her surgery and chemotherapy. One week after she began chemotherapy, her 30-year-old son passed away.
“I was feeling bad physically, emotionally, and then being hit with that was indescribably devastating,” Seabert said. She had just started losing her hair and recalled trying to maintain some semblance of her hairdo for the funeral.
Participate in The Longevity Project
The Longevity Project is an annual campaign to help educate readers about what it takes to live a long, fulfilling life in our valley. This year Kevin shares his story of hope and celebration of life with his presentation Cracked, Not Broken as we explore the critical and relevant topic of mental health.
In the weeks that followed her son’s passing, Seabert underwent chemotherapy treatment. From there, she’d have to do six weeks of radiation, and as it’s a daily treatment, she needed to find cancer care closer to home. Shaw Regional Cancer Center in Edwards was the answer, as Seabert could stay at Jack’s Place through the duration of her treatment.
“I was really amazed to find Shaw so close that had everything I needed,” Seabert said. “Being from out of town, Jack’s Place was an immense blessing.”
Making Herself at Home
Seabert made herself at home in the complementary 12-room lodge for patients receiving care at Shaw. She brought paintings, photographs, flowers, music and everything she needed to set up a remote office in her room.
“I think the ladies at Jack’s Place were a little surprised when I kept wheeling in furniture, my computer, printer and files,” she said. “I set up camp and they very much accommodated me.”
Seabert would drive from Steamboat on Monday mornings, stay the week and drive home on Friday afternoons. She spent seven weeks at Jack’s Place.
“Really, I made it home,” she said.
Seabert’s life had changed dramatically, and through her time at Jack’s Place, she learned how to return to herself.
“I’ve always been a really strong individual, always taking care of everyone else,” she said. “Staying at Jack’s Place gave me an experience where I was able to focus all my attention on taking care of myself.”
What began out of “convenience and necessity,” as Seabert describes it, turned into a journey toward recovering from the devastation of her diagnosis and the loss of her son and rediscovering her health and her passions.
“Being at Jack’s Place, surrounded by the clinicians and staff at Shaw, it was a constant flow of support and understanding that was really healing,” she said. “I had gotten into a pattern of letting my personal priorities slip. That’s all changed, and a lot of it because of the Shaw Center and the re-education I was able to get — the gentle coaching, the subtle suggestions for taking my nutrition to a new level or getting outside and going for a hike.”
Like every patient at Shaw, Seabert was given complementary access to the Spirit of Survival program, which includes free fitness classes, nutrition coaching, emotional support and even acupuncture and massages.
“I took advantage of everything I possibly could and it turned my life around,” she said.
Seabert started working out with the cancer center’s exercise physiologists, who specialize in creating individualized programs for cancer survivors. She said it would have been way more difficult to regain her strength and establish a regular workout routine, from what had deteriorated to the lowest physical baseline she had ever experienced, without the encouragement of Shaw’s fitness program.
She went on group hikes, took yoga and Pilates classes, attended healthy cooking demonstrations and even learned to love Brussels sprouts (a super food known to fight cancer). She began getting massage and acupuncture treatments and continues doing energy and body work today, saying, “I always knew there were benefits, but I experienced firsthand how they changed the way I was healing.”
Seabert called cancer a game changer.
“When I arrived at Jack’s Place, I was in really bad shape,” she said. “I was the weakest physically and emotionally after going through chemotherapy and losing my son. I never really realized the physical impact grief could have on you. I had no strength, and I was just surviving, just trying to get through the treatments and get through my work.”
Today, Seabert is back to work full-force, exercising regularly, eating well and pursuing her passions. Her experience brought her back to music. While she had once played in a bluegrass band, she hadn’t picked up her mandolin for five years until one evening at Jack’s Place when she and one of her sisters decided to play for a group of patients relaxing in the living room.
“We were pretty rough, but that didn’t matter. Once we got past the ‘I’m not good enough, I haven’t practiced enough’ stage, we just had fun,” she said. “It warmed my heart.”
A few months after she finished treatment, Seabert played a Pink Vail kickoff party at Crazy Mountain Brewery with her husband and some friends. This year, she will make a guest appearance with Rural Wreckage, the opening band in a lineup of all-day live music at Pink Vail on Saturday, April 2. She has started a team called the Cancer Cureleaders, and they’re currently working on their costumes and a special cheer for the judges of the Costume Contest.
Seabert’s goal is to raise $2,000 for Pink Vail because all the proceeds benefit the Spirit of Survival program, which she calls “a wonderful gift.”
“I want to do my part to carry that on and make sure others can heal in the way that I have,” she said.