“The Lord’s been good to me. People ask me how I can be positive. I’ve stood toe to toe with grizzly bears, I’ve been a part of winning state championships in every sport I’ve coached. I have a wonderful wife, a wonderful family, and live in the best place in the world. I live at 9500 feet. We’ve been so blessed, a lot of that comes from the community and from where we live,” said David Trembly.
That’s a strong statement from a man who has been battling colon cancer for five years.
In 2018, David had minor knee surgery and then had his appendix removed.
“The scar tissue where the appendix was removed was bothering me, the CAT scan found Stage 3C colon cancer,” David said. “They took out 14 inches of my colon, sewed me back up, and I had 29 radiation treatments, and 30 chemo sessions (pills).”
Cancer treatment is never routine, but David with his penchant for organized football, wrestling, and track practices quickly developed one.
“I would go to school at 5 am, put hours in, get lesson plans finished, leave at 7 am and drive to Lander, do the radiation, hit McDonald’s, get an egg McMuffin, stop at Ft Washakie to take my chemo pills since I had eaten the McMuffin and needed something in my stomach for the pill. I’d get back to Dubois at 10 then teach the rest of the day.”
Chemotherapy is tough, but radiation can be deadly.
“Radiation just about killed me, I ended up in the hospital twice, one time for 10 days,” David said. “I went to the Lander hospital after the 29th radiation. Lander pumped me full of steroids and sent me home.”
The problem proved to be a serious infection, something the steroids wouldn’t help.
“We drove to Jackson that day. My blood pressure was dangerously low with a temperature of 104. Somehow they got me going again, needless to say, we never went back to Lander.”
He underwent chemo infusions until the summer of 2019.
“I was cancer free for a while,” David said. “I had almost a whole year, went back for my 3-month checkup, they did a protein test, and my marker skyrocketed. I had some hot spots in fatty tissue and started chemo again.”
There are just a couple of chemotherapy treatments designed for colon cancer, but there are always procedures that can be done at major medical centers.
David and Adria decided to try Hyperthermic Intraperitoneal Chemotherapy (HIPEC) in Salt Lake City.
“They opened me up, cut out all the cancer they could find then treated the cancer for 90 minutes with heated chemo,” David said. “They called me cancer free for 4 months, then it came back again.”
That brought them to 2022.
“I was back on major chemo, then maintenance chemo, then last spring (2022) they found out I had a tumor in my left lung, and spots on my right lung,” David said. “There is still a tumor in fatty tissue and a hot lymph node in my hip. Now I’m on full chemo every other week in Jackson. Adria or Wyatt brings me I sit down for a day on Monday, get chemo then come back on Wednesday. They take care of the dropped white cell count. They keep the white cells up and then keep the chemo going.”
With serious illness, such as cancer, the tendency is for people to only see the disease and forgot to see the individual battling it.
The effect the Trembly family has had on Dubois is hard to measure. A quarter century of coaching football, wrestling, and track, while teaching math classes from 6th grade through Calculus I is the hallmark of David’s career. Adria is the manager of Range Communication, delivering Internet and voice services to the entire valley.
“Mostly I decide what I have to get done in a week, and the rest of it can wait,” Adria said. “Wyatt helps me a lot. I’m wondering what’s going to happen when I don’t have a Wyatt to help me.”
That answer comes in 2024 when Wyatt graduates from Dubois High School.
“I think we’re all good. This all started when I was in 8th grade. It was a big change and pretty scary for all of us,” Wyatt said. “That’s just what we do as a family. We have a pretty good view of it and know it is happening for a reason. I have never known anything different than my dad’s coaching. There are advantages and disadvantages, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Wyatt is an all-state football player, a two-time state wrestling champion, and has four gold medals from the Wyoming State Track Championships. He is an all-around athlete.
“I started wrestling in second grade, USA wrestling, he showed me everything I know,” Wyatt said of his father.
Entering his senior year at Dubois, athletics remains a big part of his future.
“I’d like to play college football somewhere, major in pre-med, probably major in biology, and specialize in orthopedics,” Wyatt said. “Hunting, and fishing anything outdoors. I have a summer job, working for one of my neighbors who is building a house.
Wyatt has many small school football offers and is in conversation with a couple of Division I programs.
His take on his father’s cancer is similar to the way his parents view the situation.
“I think our whole family is getting through it just fine, there’s no need to feel sorry for yourself, there are people much worse off than we are,” Wyatt said.
“Look at Wyatt, he has the whole world ahead of him,” Adria said. “We have four grandkids.
I’ve never once heard Wyatt complain. We’ve cried together, but that’s what families do. You take the good news and the hit. When we found out three weeks ago it was in his lungs we were devastated.”
An East Thunderbird to a Dubois Ram
David graduated from Cheyenne East High School in 1984. He played football at Tabor College in Kansas during his freshman and sophomore years, but a shoulder injury he suffered while playing for the T-Birds in high school flared up and ended his college career.
“I took a hit in a game my freshman year and had surgery,” David said. “By my sophomore year, it was so painful I could only tackle with my right shoulder.
He coached his final two years as a junior and senior, then spent a fifth year as Director of Recruiting for football and track.
His first teaching position was at Remington Junior High in Whitewater Kansas for 5 years where he coached football, wrestling, and track.
He has three sons Grant 31, Scott 28, and Joel 26 from a previous marriage.
He met Adria while she was a student at Adams State College.
“She was going to school in Colorado, I was in Kansas, we ended up meeting one time, I’d just gotten divorced, and the boys really took well to her. How could you miss?” David said.
They were married near their cabin at Warm Springs on Union Pass in June of 2001.
The original cabin had to be gutted and refinished. Later they added more space for the summer when the three older boys came.
“The boys outgrew it so we had to add space so they could have a bedroom,” David said.
You can call it serendipity, but David sees divine intervention in his moving to Dubois.
“I always loved hunting and fishing. I was in Kansas, I’d gotten divorced. My dad was working around the state helping different districts. There was a football position in Dubois. He said David, this is where you should be. There was a half-time position, and I took it. The first day of school the principal took a job in Washington. Ernie Mecca took his position, and I went full-time. You talk about God’s intervention. There is no place better for hunting and fishing. As soon as football games are over on the weekend,
Adria, Wyatt, and I are on the mountain chasing deer and elk.”
The Trembly’s are a strong family, keeping connections across the long miles of Wyoming and Colorado.
As an example, there were 43 pies up for auction at a benefit last week in Dubois, all made by David’s aunt.
“My Aunt Ruth, Ruth Houston, my dad’s younger sister, has always baked pies, David said.
She provided all of them for the benefit, raising thousands of dollars to help the family.
If you’ve been to the Frontier Day’s Parade in Cheyenne you’ve seen the Trembly family displaying their mechanical prowess.
“My dad started it. My grandfather had a farm near Wray, Colorado. We ended up with Grandpa’s 1949 John Deere D. Dad started tinkering with it, it took three years to get it running,” David said. “My uncle Elmer had As & Bs, his farm was near Hugo. We started in the parade in 1996. Dad kept collecting them. We get together during the summers and start rebuilding and painting. We have 14 in mint condition and some others that are still projects. Wyatt works on those as well, we haven’t added a whole bunch since Dad is gone, but we have fun with them, it’s like our family reunion. We get together and work on tractors. Julie is the scheduler, I’m the mechanic, Steve does the financial part.”
What is it like to be a long-term cancer patient? The Trembly family experienced it firsthand.
“Over time like antibiotics, everything wears out,” David said of the treatments. “Day one, I won’t feel the greatest, but I’ll be at practice that night. Day two isn’t bad. Day Three I’m off the steroid, and it’s not bad. Dave five and six are terrible. Day seven is better, and then the second week you’re almost normal.”
The side effects of radiation and chemotherapy are the worst part of the ordeal.
“We do wallow sometimes because we’re human. There’s too much to do and too much to enjoy,” Adria said. “If we have a football game, we’ll make it through, but he’ll pay for it the next day. If the game was Friday, on Saturday it’s rest all day. That’s ok too because he was doing what he loves.”
“I don’t have feeling in my feet. Walking is a chore, snowmobiling I can’t do anymore. I’d love to get on a horse, but I don’t know. “When I retire maybe someday I can find a horse,” David said. “There are little things, your fingernails split, you have to wear band-aids to keep the cracks from catching the sheets. Every time you walk into a restaurant or a new building, the first thing you do is find the restroom, there are times when you have minutes, maybe seconds to get to the restroom. Lots of little things, you lose all your nose hair. Your nose is an open faucet without the nose hairs. I tell the kids if my nose is running, just tell me, I can’t feel it.”
“Fingernails and hairs, fast dividing cells get attacked so much quicker. His fingernails split all the time,” Adria said.” It affects things you wouldn’t even think about. He can’t use the trackpad, so we get a mouse, you adapt. It’s a balance issue, the feet are the biggest issue. The deeper he gets into the whole round of chemo his whole situation gets worst. As the toxicity lever gets higher after each round, it just gets harder.”
David takes all this in stride, with a confident, strong attitude.
“You could be grouchy about it, quit, and pout, but what do you have? You don’t have anything. I talk about it a lot, that’s part of my out. At the same time, I think maybe I’ll help somebody else.”
David’s inspiration comes from his mother.
“My mom was the toughest person I ever knew. She had rheumatoid arthritis for decades, back in the 70s she took steroids. Her skin was paper thin, just looking at it her skin would tear,” he said. “Even the smallest injury sent her to the hospital. She never complained she did everything a mom would do, she still taught and had to deal with this. I never heard her complain. She is my idol on these days when I get grouchy about all this stuff. I think, Oh yeah, look at what mom went through.”
Adding good to the bad is something both David and Adria strive to do.
“You help others. If I can show up at work and help people any way I can. I let people know that you can make a difference. It’s just what I do,” David said.
David has found relief in acupuncture.
“My pain threshold has changed. I’ve had surgery three times, so my scar tissue makes it tough to sit up,” David said. “Acupuncture helps my neuropathy. It’s like your legs have gone to sleep 24/7. It got so bad that when I went to bed at night it was like needles. We tried acupuncture, it helped but my feet are still numb.”
With cancer, you can’t escape the finality of it if treatments fail.
“For my long-term goal, I’ve got a year left to help kids because I’m going to retire. What does that mean? Help them learn more? Help them learn about themselves more? I don’t know what that is. That would be my first priority.” David said. “Personally, I want to watch Wyatt finish high school and all those cool things. I just had a new grandkid and haven’t met Lexi yet. I’d love to see Wyatt’s family. I don’t know if the Lord is going to let me do that or not.”
A pragmatic outlook comes with coaching, and even though cancer is beyond the pale of whistles, strategy, and execution, the connections coaches make with players and officials are constant to both.
“One thing is to show people they are stronger than they think you are. I love the Lord and he’s taken care of me. I live my life the way other people may find him,” David said. “500 years from now, the only thing that really matters are relationships. Relationships are the most important part.”
A standing-room-only benefit was held for David’s medical expenses last Saturday at the Headwaters Arts and Convention Center in Dubois.
“That was beyond incredible, I went home and woke up at about 2 am,” David said of the benefit. “Adria and I said that was a pretty good definition of a miracle. It was so fun, just the people being there, Jeff and Jim were amazing. You try to wrap your head around all these numbers. For Adria and I, all these people together make it work, it was nothing less than a miracle.”
Adria concurred completely.
“We couldn’t live in a better place. Not all those people are from Dubois,” Adria said of the benefit. “They’re from around the state and elsewhere. We’re never able to pay this back. When David’s cancer journey is over, I hope I can help others the way they’ve helped us. There’s a lady in town that brings us a meal, we don’t ask, she just does it. There are days it’s a bit overwhelming, but you just get up brush your teeth and go. We have plenty of time to think about it.”