VAIL (AP) - Within hours of waking up from surgery in an intensive care unit, most people likely would be days, if not
months, away from skiing Vail Mountain again.
Paul Maloney is not most people. Maloney, 55, who has lived in the valley since 1995 and is a popular ski instructor
with Vail/Beaver Creek Ski and Snowboard School, was diagnosed with stage four throat cancer a year ago. He's not a
smoker or a drinker - the cancer was brought on by a virus - and Maloney was skiing Vail just hours after waking up in
Maloney's prognosis looked grim. The throat cancer already was in stage four, and it was attacking his body
aggressively, he said.
Friends rallied around Maloney and his wife, Mary Bochain, and raised money for the family to help with their soaring
medical costs last August. At the time, Bochain said her husband was in excellent spirits and that if anybody could
survive this, it would be him.
Fast-forward more than eight months, and Maloney not only is surviving, he's living life to the fullest.
He said the last year has been one of the best years of his life. He even got to ski the last three days of the 2008-09
ski season and also has been skiing this season.
So the joke is that I managed to squeeze in the cancer treatment and not mess up either ski season,"
Skiing is something Maloney said he's never grown tired of - he still gets such a kick out of it.
He said there's a feeling when you get out of town and up on the chair lift - that you've left all your troubles
behind. That's how he wanted to feel when he woke up at the Vail Valley Medical Center intensive care unit and he could
see the mountains outside and the snow was coming down. He wanted to get out of there, he said.
His children went and got his ski equipment for him, and he got dressed in his hospital room. They wheeled him down the
sidewalk, past the Dobson Arena and to the base of Chair 8.
He had an emergency medical technician with him to help carry around the oxygen tank, so it was relatively safe, he
But it was the feeling he had while up on that mountain, with his children, that improved his mood and his spirit.
I had that stupid, probably Irish or skier's mentality, that I can do whatever I want," Maloney said.
He thinks his attitude, and his desire to get out of bed and back into life, is why he's fighting his cancer battle so
well. Aside from skiing, Maloney also went to Disney World with his children just days after ending his third round of
chemotherapy. He bought a used BMW convertible and drove it from Orlando to Houston for his radiation treatments at the
MD Anderson Cancer Center.
In the middle of that six-week intensive radiation treatment, he managed to fly to Montana to see his oldest daughter
He looks back on the year - a year doctors told him he might not make it through - with fond memories and nothing but
optimism going forward.
Bochain said if you didn't know he was sick and didn't know what he looked like before this happened - the treatments
have caused him to lose about 100 pounds - you'd never know anything was wrong.
He never allows us to think that the cancer has slowed him down at all or gotten in the way of his life goals,"
Bochain said. Everything he does is as if he never had cancer. We don't even think of him as a cancer survivor because
his approach to it was such that he doesn't think about it, so we don't think about it."
Bochain said her husband has a special ability to adapt to every hurdle life has thrown at him. She thinks that's what
helped him enjoy the last year so much.
I think he has that response where he feels life is very precious and very real, and he's appreciating it
differently," she said.
Now that Maloney has finished a lot of his treatment and is just awaiting word about whether his cancer is in
remission, he looks back on the last year and says that it wasn't that bad."
When you're sick, you don't have the right to complain because there's so much worse out there," Maloney said.
Maloney said his skiing has been improving so much, too, that he feels like he just might have this cancer thing
You know what, you can get a lucky break - you can persevere," he said. How funny that cancer brought me one of the
happiest years of my life."