By Dillon Thomas

LOVELAND, Colo. (CBS4) – A man in northern Colorado has more reason to fight for his life thanks to UCHealth and the Colorado Avalanche. Derek Babb, 47, was recently surprised by the staff at Medical Center of the Rockies with a zoom meeting with many of his favorite sports idols.

(credit: Derek Babb)

Shortly after the COVID-19 pandemic started, Babb was experiencing many symptoms associated with coronavirus, including shortness of breath and coughing. However, he feared going to the hospital to get checked.

His roommate ultimately took him to the hospital where he was tested for COVID-19. When the results came back negative, Babb said he knew something bad was happening.

“It rocked my world good,” Babb told CBS4’s Dillon Thomas. “It turned out 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. Doctors at UCHealth diagnosed Babb with stage four lung cancer.

“I was really frightened about the whole thing,” Babb said. “You’re looking at six-to-nine months to live.”

Babb is known for his laugh, his overall joy and passion for professional sports teams in Colorado. He chose to tackle his treatment with as much joy as he could, and wore his Colorado Avs mask each time.

“Yes sir. I love my Denver Broncos and Colorado Avalanche,” Babb said.

(credit: Derek Babb)

When staff at UCHealth 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 on Altitude Sports, which he said was thrilling.

“I’ve watched those guys for 25 years now,” Babb said.

However, Babb was not prepared for the surprises to follow. Former Avs player John Michael Lyle joined the meeting, as did current players Ian Cole and J.T. Compher.

“It was surreal. I wasn’t expecting that at all,” Babb said. “It just lit me up like a candle, I was so ecstatic about that.”

Babb spent time telling the organization about his passion for both the Avs and the Denver Broncos. They also updated him on the plans for the season and encouraged him to keep strong during his battle with cancer.

“I’m just glad I was able to contain myself enough to keep my composure to do the interview without fan boy’ing out,” Babb said.

Babb thanked the doctors at UCHealth’s MCR for their tireless work to assist him. Though only given an estimated six-to-nine months to live, Babb said he was confident they would help him survive longer.

He has already surpassed the six month marker, and his tumor has shrunk significantly. He said it continues to shrink, which is also helping him feel much better.

(credit: Derek Babb)

With the framed Joe Sakic jersey, frames and a signed stick hung above his window, Babb is looking forward to watching the Avs return to the ice. He said he was waiting for COVID restrictions to lift so he can be in the stands at least one more time.

Babb said he was hopeful that he would live past the nine months he first feared, and hoped his story would encourage others to tackle all of life’s challenges with a smile and happy heart.

“If I’ve only got six-to-nine months left, I am going to live those six-to-nine months being happy and doing what I do,” Babb said.

Dillon Thomas