The American Cancer Society predicts that over 100,000 Americans will be diagnosed with colon cancer in 2019. The average survival rate is 50 percent.
Paul Dill is one of those survivors but he's far from average. This weekend, the Surface Creek community will come together to celebrate the success of his treatment and raise funds to help Paul and his wife Tracy deal with expenses.
The "Luck of the Irish'" fundraising event is scheduled for St. Patrick's Day, Sunday, March 17, from 4-7 p.m. The location is the Grand Mesa Arts & Events Center (GMAEC) at 195 West Main Street in downtown Cedaredge. The event will feature refreshments, live music by David Starr, and a wide range of auction items including Broncos' tickets, rounds of golf, and sporting goods. At least one of Paul's distinctive hand-fabricated knives will be included as an auction item.
Acquaintances describe Paul as outgoing and talkative with a wicked sense of humor. He has always been self-employed as a metal fabricator and welder. He also sharpens tools including saw and clipper blades, scissors and knives. One of his specialties is building beautiful Alabama Damascus Steel knives and he's recently tried his hand at decorative metal art.
"If it's steel and you can get it hot and burn it or weld it, I can do it," he laughed.
Paul laughs a lot. It helps because for several months he had to give up his metal working and focus on battling the tumor he nicknamed "tater."
Paul's cancer adventure began in 2018 with a routine test that he'd been putting off for years. The Delta County Health Fair was in town offering screening for various risk factors. As a healthy and active 54-year-old with no symptoms and only one hospitalization (as a kid to have his tonsils removed), Paul was skeptical of the need for screening but he summed up his experience precisely.
"I flunked," he said.
After screening, there was a colonoscopy and biopsy which confirmed cancer in Paul's colon and lymph nodes. Surgery followed in September 2018. Chemotherapy began on Halloween and lasted until the end of January when Paul got to ring a bell. Grand Mesa Oncology at Delta County Memorial Hospital has an end-of-chemo ceremony which invites each surviving patient to ring a brass bell. The ceremony was a fitting one because one thing Paul knows how to manage is metal.
Working together as TP Services, he and wife Tracy have fabricated metal to produce several local signs and a wide range of decorative pieces. One of his most visible works is the sign that hangs at the entrance of Cedaredge's Surface Creek Saddle Club at the intersection of East Main Street and Cedar Mesa Road. The Dills donated their labor to fashion the huge metal sign and Paul has been a saddle club volunteer for years. His metalwork signage is also on display at the arts center in downtown Cedaredge. His decorative art can be seen at Stacy's on Main in Cedaredge and at Sisson's Feed and Seed Company in Delta.
Paul and Tracy have lived in Cedaredge since 2003 and, although he's finished the most challenging part of his treatment, he's not out of the woods yet.
With three months of chemotherapy behind him, Paul is still going in for regular monthly checkups. Eventually he'll go in quarterly, then semi-annually, and then once a year. He's relieved to be through with the chemo which he likened to having the flu every 14 days.
"Just when I was starting to feel better," he recalled, "Here came the needle in for another round of poison."
In addition to making him queasy and sapping his energy, the chemotherapy made him sensitive to cold ("eating ice cream was like taking a bite out of a cactus"). It also ruined his sense of taste and -- worst of all for an outgoing and sociable guy -- it lowered his immunity which forced him to avoid contact with others.
"We became hermits," he said, "But we were never alone."
Throughout the process, friends and neighbors kept in touch and when his supporters suggested the St. Patrick's Day fundraiser, the Dills at first figured they'd get by without it. But the others insisted. Paul had done so much for the community, they said, so now the community would return the favor.
Paul is thankful for the quality medical care he's receiving and he described the outpouring of local support as "the most humbling thing I've ever experienced. Cedaredge is one heck of a community."
Anyone unable to attend the fundraiser can contribute by making a donation directly into Paul Dill's account at any Bank of Colorado branch. For more information, contact Melinda Katchur at 303-564-0823 or MelindaKatchur@gmail.com.