Lover of animals, eclectic taste in music, a thirst for knowledge and a heart brimmed with wanderlust – Carrie Dozbaba was a jewel on this planet. Greg and Carrie met in 2009 – both in their mid-40s and without children, their love blossomed and grew. On May 21, 2011 Greg and Carrie got married at the Little White Chapel in Las Vegas surrounded by a group of family and friends, with Elvis Presley walking Carrie down the aisle and singing soulfully at their reception. This Vegas trip would become an annual tradition each May, followed by a mystery trip in September, and a cruise to kick-off the New Year. They both loved to travel, go to live concerts, and enjoy the best life had to offer. It wasn’t until 2016 that these travels would come to a halt as Carrie’s health became unpredictable.
In September 2016 Carrie Dozbaba had a cough and as a registered nurse, she thought she was experiencing seasonal allergies but decided to get a check-up after the cough would not let up. After an x-ray, Carrie’s doctors thought she had pneumonia and prescribed antibiotics to help bring her back to health. Soon after, she found a small lump in her breast and knew she had to go back to the doctor to find out what was going on with her health. After the lump was found to be cancerous, Carrie was scheduled for surgery to remove the lump. Leading up to surgery doctors noticed something in her lungs. What was originally thought to be pneumonia was now diagnosed as Stage 4 lung cancer. Lutheran Medical Center Oncologist Dr. Christopher Jones began treating Carrie’s cancer with chemotherapy. After testing the cells in her lungs, doctors could not find the primary source of her cancer.
Carrie was incredibly intelligent. The daughter of a doctor, Carrie spent much of her childhood traveling with her family. She had a degree in nutrition, a master’s degree in music, and finally found her calling in nursing. Carrie received her nursing degree and enjoyed caring for patients as the manager of a dialysis clinic. A true local, she graduated just down the road at Wheat Ridge High School while her dad, Dr. Earl Chandler, delivered babies at Lutheran Medical Center and had a successful OBGYN practice for over 30 years.
Chemotherapy was hard for Carrie – the lack of appetite, and difficulty of finding options that worked for her. “Dr. Jones was never one of the doctors who gave us a “4 months to live” timeline, he gave us a lot of hope and always had other options for Carrie to try”, Greg reflected, remembering Carrie’s struggles with cancer. A week after Carrie’s diagnosis she woke up unable to breathe as the tumor in her lungs had grown and cut off her airway. Dr. Wendy Nekritz provided emergency radiation to reduce the size of the tumor, making it easier for her to breathe. From that day forward Carrie required oxygen, and it seemed that the chemotherapy was helping as scans started to show improvement. Carrie did her best to stay healthy and active throughout treatment and could be seen walking several times a week at the Wheat Ridge Recreation Center. This was the beginning of a rollercoaster ride, as Carrie would get better, and then worse, with her doctors trying their best to offer new forms of treatment to defeat her cancer. Unfortunately Carrie’s cancer was incredibly aggressive and she passed away June 16, 2017 – just 12 days after crossing the finish line at the 2017 Heroes of Hope race.
Greg Dozbaba has been an attendee of the former Leaves of Hope race since 2008 – before he had met Carrie. This local event was close to home and provided great exercise, and after meeting Carrie they attended together as their annual summer race. At the 2017 Heroes of Hope race Carrie was able to walk the full mile – a great milestone for her, and an inspiration to those in attendance. Carrie was always thankful for her care and hoped to join Lutheran’s Infusion Center team as a nurse after her recovery, which unfortunately never came to fruition. After losing Carrie, Greg continued to attend the Cancer Support Groups offered by Lutheran Medical Center. “It is helpful to talk with other people that are in your shoes. When you are diagnosed you feel very alone, and this [support group] brought comfort.” Greg has found some healing working with other patients and families through the Cancer Survivor and Grief Support Groups at Lutheran.
Heroes of Hope this year will be bitter sweet for Greg, especially being the first year to attend without Carrie. “I’m looking forward to honoring Carrie, and seeing people that I know. Last year Carrie wrote on the Hope Scarf “Cancer sucks, don’t let it win” – this year I will wear my cancer sucks shirt in her honor”. For individuals like Greg, and many families that attend this annual event to honor their loved ones, their heroes live on in their memories. Help us celebrate Carrie, and so many others who fought courageously against this terrible disease. Be a part of their hope and healing, and cheer on the survivors that are with us. Visit www.LutheranHeroesofHope.org to register for the race on Saturday, June 2nd.