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  • Writer's pictureKate

My First Day As A Ski Instructor! ANOTHER A-OK From MD Anderson! Dating While Immuno Compromised!

Photos by four-year-old Jack.

"How'd it go?" asked my supervisor after I returned with my first group of Max Threes (which means maximum of three four-year-olds) and handed the kids over to their parents, complete with report cards about what we did. Which was stuff like, rolling down the hill, going up the magic carpet in our ski boots and running down pretending to ski and not spilling hot chocolate (huge, in my book). None of which were on the list of what we were supposed to do.

"Well, they'd all stopped crying by the time their parents got there," I said.

A couple of other instructors turned around.

"Congratulations!" they said.

Actually, it really was nowhere nearly as bad as I thought it would be.

At first, it looked as though I'd get away with just two kids, Jack and Charlie, for my 9 a.m. morning class. Then as we were leaving, a supervisor came up to me with a little girl. Tears were streaming down her face.

"This is Isla!"


Isla perked up when Jack introduced her to throwing snowballs. And when we bumped into her 11-year-old sister, Jade, a totally adorable girl with green braces and blue glasses, she even went up the magic carpet! With Jade's instructor.

"Isla's kind of stubborn," Jade said.

"I kinda picked that up," I said.

"Isla, you gonna ski tomorrow?" I asked.

Isla looked at me solemnly. And shook her head no.

Charlie occasionally would cry because he wanted his mother.

"Can we call her?" he asked.

"Okay!" I said. "What's her number?"


"Charlie," I said. "I need two more numbers."

"That's her number!" he said firmly. I thought, well maybe if he tells me where he lives, I can see if that's the 609 area code, if he's even close!"

"Charlie, where do you live?" I asked.

"My neighborhood!" he said brightly.

OMG. This is really going to be fun.

Early on I try rhyming so the kids can remember my name, in case we get separated. Which I am going to make damn sure does not happen. "I'm Kate the Skate," I say, which was one of my nicknames in college. "Cape the Scape," says Andy happily. He's one of my afternoon kids.

"No," I say, "Kate the Skate" and I exaggerate the t-sound.

"That's what I said!" says Andy, with some irritation. "Cape the Scape."

Okay, in the future, I'm just going to identify myself as Kate the Great. It seems self aggrandizing but when I talked about it with Gavriela, she was like, just do it.

I love loading kids on the gondola. The lifties are great. Seriously. They take my skis and put them in the ski slot on the outside of the gondola because I am also carrying the three kids' skis and take them into the gondola with the kids.

"Number 42!" they say, indicating the number on the gondola car.. I hope the kids know numbers.

They don't.

But they toddle obediently toward the correct gondola.

"Go! Go! Go!" shout the lifties, who have hundreds of people waiting in line for these kids. I think: I hope these people in line all remember that these kids are going to grow up to be the workers who fund Social Security for their retirement. Unless they all vote Republican.

The lifties and I grab the kids by the handles on the little vests they wear, trotting along side the moving gondola car and lifting them into it. I remember how the head of the ski school said repeatedly, "assist, don't lift, we can't have anymore instructors out with injuries from lifting a little guest."

Obviously, she has not recently helped several never-evers, as my group is described, into the gondola.

"Go, go, go!" the lifties continue to shout. And we all tumble in. It feels like we're being evacuated from a burning city with bombers strafing us.

Lia, a four-year-old in my 1 pm afternoon class, a Jujitsu student who has already earned one stripe, digs it. She is exhilarated when we load up at the gondola to ride it back down to the base at the end of the afternoon. She sits on the seat, giggling.

"Is getting on the gondola your favorite part?" I ask.

"Yup," she says.

Overall, it was a blast, even though there were plenty of moments when I thought, what the fuck am I doing?

Then, as I was driving back from ski school and talking to my cousin Sarah, a 713 number lit up on the dash of my car. This is a call that I'd been waiting for. That's because Wednesday I got back from my usual six-week visit to Houston, with multiple scans and other tests.

The numbers I did get when I was there were all great! A key number for immunity is solid. Really good. A long list of other numbers that I won't bore you with are also really excellent.

As far as my doctor and physician's assistant could tell, my scans looked good. But radiologists can see more. And they hadn't gotten their readings back to my team.

So, I came home, waiting and trying really hard not to worry about the results. To entertain myself I emailed the PA and doctor one question I'd forgotten to ask.

"Being immuno compromised and dating" I put as the header on my question in MyChart.

"Now, this is sort of uncomfortable, but what about stuff like, kissing?" I wrote. "Y'know? I mean, you must run into this all the time. Don't you have dating protocols? I've met a few guys who seem interested. I mean, one can't go out for another few weeks because he is getting blue light treatment for skin cancer. And another is on a trip to the Amazon with his kids. And I'm going out with another guy, but I'm not gonna kiss on my first date. So, like, no rush, just wondering."

The whole team chimed in immediately. The nurse promptly emailed me back, promising a rapid response.. The PA responded: the doctor says to just kiss one guy at a time--she thinks he's joking, but we're not clear. And, she adds, just make sure they don't have symptoms of a cold, RSV or Covid.

"May God bless you and send you the right man," writes the nurse.


Friday morning as I put my new ski instructor uniform on, I was pretty anxious, both about the scans and the first day of teaching. I mean, the last time I taught kids was swimming at the Sparta Municipal Pool and Mary Lahm, my buddy from playpen days, was in the pool with me! Mary, I thought. I wish you were with me now! Even though you don't really ski.

But by Friday afternoon, as I drove away from the ski area after the first day of lessons.. I knew everything was fine. The Universe had been sending me all sorts of all-is-well signals. Like two home repair projects that were done much faster and were less complicated that they could have been. When does that happen with a single home repair project? And TWO! Look man, that's a sign that miracles are in the works. Then, my flight back to Salt Lake from Houston was smooth (I am a former aviation editor who is terrified when planes hit bumpy air) and landed 45 minutes early Wednesday night.

The ski instructor supervisors I'd met during the day Friday had been really kind, wanting to know how it went, and how I felt.

"Actually," I'd said, "it was not as bad as I thought. I just wished I could have really gotten them to enjoy skiing."

"That's fine," they all said, "It'll come."

And when I stopped at what Vail Resorts calls the Team Station or something like that but is literally a locker room, to double-check my schedule, one of the supervisors shouted out to another. "This is Kate, she's great!"

I still think the resort should charge less for a class with an apprentice instructor. Especially after watching what an experienced instructor CAN do.

And, of course, none of the kids had wet their pants. Always a win. And another good sign from the Universe.

So when the 713 number flashed up on my car's dash, my heart didn't thump. In fact, I thought it might have been a robo call asking me to rate the quality of the service I got at my visit to MD Anderson.

But it was Samir, the doctor, and Melinda, the PA. And they had good news. It wasn't as great as I'd hoped, I'd wanted another dramatic reduction in those pesky nodules. But they said the good news was that they'd held steady. They were still exultant about the fact that the last scan, six weeks ago, had shown a 42% reduction in the size of the largest nodule. So holding steady is good, very good.

"That is great!" I said. "I'm going to keep working with your scientific wonders. And the way I'm going to do that is to keep living as healthy of a life as I can. I'm going to keep my mindset strong, and up my meditating, so that when I come back in another six weeks, those nodules will be gone."

"Great!" said Samir, "That's what we love to hear. The liquid tumors sometimes disappear in six months."

The cancer I was diagnosed with is a solid tumor cancer. The re-engineered white blood cell immunotherapy is just now being testing on these types. So, gotta go meditate!

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I just went on a whole JOURNEY up a snowy mountain with you on this one!! Love that you're instructing Kate the Great!!! (Can't think of a better more accurate-yet-understatement of a nickname for you : ) Tremendous news on your continued healing & resilience!!! xxx ~ Shelby

Feb 13, 2023
Replying to

Oh, thank you Shelby!!! 🌸🌷💕


A situation comedy,maybe? BTW, you do recall that Ed calls you Kate the Great (when not calling you Wonder Woman.)

Feb 13, 2023
Replying to

Aww, thank you Nadine! I forgot about Ed calling me that! Love it and thank you for reminding me!!! 🌸


Feb 12, 2023

I was laughing with happiness and plenty of volume at your instructor experiences. Oh my you are a brave soul to take those wee one on - great graphic imagery! I vividly remembered those days with my girls. Thanks for another update, I have waiting and waiting and waiting. Terrific news from MD. Keep the meditations going. I am one of your greatest fans and I sending love and positive vibes your way.

Feb 13, 2023
Replying to

Vicki, oh, thank you, thank you, thank you! And I can only imagine what it was like with your three!


Feb 12, 2023

This isn’t right. Reading your posts make ME grin. What a chaotic and wonderful life you lead. Glad to hear the meditation and the medical field are working. Honored to be a member of your team. BE WELL

♥️ Christy

Feb 12, 2023
Replying to

Aww, thanks, Christy!!! And I totally intend to be well! XXXX 00000🌹💗

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