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Fifty Sense: Common Sense Ideas for Thriving after 50
Fifty Sense: Common Sense Ideas for Thriving after 50

Alpine Skiing: Stories

Dave Ulery: My story

Dave Ulery skiing

I’ve been a pretty active person my entire life. Always liked playing and watching sports. Played all sorts of sports from golf, baseball, softball, football, racquetball, skiing, hacky sack, Frisbee, street hockey, ice skating... Then in June of 2005 I was getting ready to move from Central Pennsylvania to Utah with my wife, two kids and dog for a job transfer when the ^%&^ hit the fan. I was diagnosed with esthesioneuroblastoma – stage 4 because it had spread to my brain. It is a very rare cancer of the olfactory nerves. I spent the next 12 or so months of my life recovering from surgery, radiation and then chemotherapy. The surgery removed all my olfactory nerves, so I will never have a sense of smell again.

Truth be told, it really took about 2+ years to get the wheels back on where they belong. During my illness I would have days where I would sleep 18 hours and still be tired. Sleep was peace. Walking from my bedroom to the kitchen – maybe a 25 foot journey – was literally exhausting to the point where I was out of breath even when I used a walker. I went from 212 to 152 lbs during chemo. I vowed to myself that after spending that much time laying around in bed that I would spend the rest of my life making up for that time that I lost. I also vowed to help other people as much as people helped me when I was sick. I am a firm believer in the “pay it forward” mentality. The outpouring of love and concern that I experienced was humbling and inspirational.

Once I finally got out here to Utah it took me about a year before I had the stamina to resume more than moderate physical exercise. I live in a little, tiny, out in the middle of nowhere, town about 30 miles west of Salt Lake City. In 2009 they opened a really nice Gold’s gym here. Prior to that there was no real health club here. I joined and am happy to report that I am a 6-day a week gym guy. I play racquetball 2 or 3 of those days and do cardio and lift the other days. But the best part of Utah is our mountains – especially in the winter. The greatest snow on earth is an hour from my house. Last year I got in 25 days. I’m hoping to top that in 2012, weather permitting.

While I am a little bit shy of my 50th birthday, I am in probably the best physical condition of my life. I am also a better skier than I have ever been. I keep pushing the envelope a little further. This year’s big adventure was buying myself a pair of big fatties and learning to ski the deep. I’m still learning, but I can already see the results. A day on the slopes with fresh snow, sunshine and no lift lines is about as good as it gets for me.

My plan is that as long as I am physically able, I plan on being active. It sounds corny, but to a large degree age IS just a number. Never let it tell you what you can and can’t do. You tell age the rules. My illness taught me a lot of things. It taught me that I am a lot stronger and tougher than I ever thought I was. I have been given a second chance at life and I don’t want to look back on it with regrets. Have fun, make friends, respect people with different perspectives, help others and appreciate the things in life that really matter. And get off your duff!!! There will be plenty of time from resting eventually.

And that’s ma’ story!!

Dave Ulery and Josh Ulery

Dave Ulery
Stansbury, Utah

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