LOVELAND, Colorado (CBS4) – A man in northern Colorado has more reason to fight for his life thanks to UCHealth and the Colorado Avalanche. 47-year-old Derek Babb was recently surprised by the staff at the Medical Center of the Rockies with a Zoom meeting with many of his favorite sports idols.
Shortly after the COVID-19 pandemic began, Babb began experiencing many symptoms related to the coronavirus, including shortness of breath and coughing. However, he feared he would go to the hospital for an examination.
His roommate eventually took him to the hospital where he was tested for COVID-19. When the results were negative, Babb said he knew something bad was going to happen.
“It shook my world well,” Babb told CBS4’s Dillon Thomas. “It turned out that it wasn’t COVID. It turned out to be something worse. “
Babb’s lungs were filled with fluid and one had a significantly large tumor. The doctors at UCHealth diagnosed Babb with stage four lung cancer.
“I was really scared of the whole thing,” said Babb. “You’re looking for six to nine months to live.”
Babb is known for his laugh, general joy, and passion for professional sports teams in Colorado. He decided to approach his treatment with as much joy as possible, wearing his Colorado Avs mask every time.
“Yeah. I love my Denver Broncos and Colorado Avalanche,” said Babb.
When the UCHealth staff learned he was a lifelong Avs fan, the hospital network teamed up with the Avalanche to surprise Babb. Babb was told he was doing a Zoom interview with Kyle Keef, host at Altitude Sports, which he thought was exciting.
“I’ve been watching these guys for 25 years now,” Babb said.
Babb wasn’t prepared for the following surprises, however. Former Avs player John Michael Lyle attended the meeting, as did current players Ian Cole and JT Compher.
“It was surreal. I didn’t expect that at all, ”said Babb. “It just lit me like a candle, I loved it so much.”
Babb spent time telling the organization about his passion for the Avs and the Denver Broncos. They also briefed him on the season’s plans and encouraged him to stay strong during his battle with cancer.
“I’m just glad I held back enough to keep my composure to do the interview without a fan boy dropping out,” said Babb.
Babb thanked the doctors at UCHealths MCR for their tireless work to help him. Although Babb only had an estimated six to nine months to live, he said he was confident that they would help him survive longer.
He has already passed the 6-month mark and his tumor has shrunk significantly. He said it continues to shrink which also helps him feel a lot better.
With the framed Joe Sakic jersey, frame, and a signed stick over the window, Babb looks forward to seeing the Avs back on the ice. He said he was waiting for the COVID restrictions to be lifted so that he could stand in the stands at least one more time.
Babb said he was confident that he would survive the nine months he first feared and hoped his story would encourage others to tackle all of life’s challenges with a smile and a happy heart.
“When I only have six to nine months left, I’ll spend those six to nine months being happy and doing what I do,” Babb said.