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Alpine family recounts wildfire, tragedies and life lessons learned

By Jonathan Boldt

For the Deseret News

Published: Tuesday, July 10 2012 1:44 p.m. MDT

Lance and Nancy Boldt with children (from left), Jonathan and wife Jennie, Benjamin, Joshua, Aaron, Sadie, Natalie, Alyshia (Kuhni) and husband Korey.

Kim Boldt Photography

The early-morning calm can be deceiving in more ways than one. The fresh smell of a new day cleansed by a night of much-needed rain and the smoldering ashes on the mountainside give off an eerie sense of calm on Tuesday night after a roller-coaster Fourth of July for one of many families residing in Alpine who were evacuated by the area's Quail fire.

At 2:15 Tuesday afternoon, life took a familiar fight-or-flight turn for Lance and Nancy Boldt and their soon-to-be 9-year-old daughter, Sadie. Her birthday party was slated for Friday afternoon but, with all of her neighborhood friends evacuated, the party was postponed.

To understand the mindset of the Boldt family, a little background and a trip back to 2003 is necessary.

“The alarm had just gone off and I got a call that my family had been in an accident in Nebraska and that one of the boys didn’t make it,” Lance recalled. “I literally fell off the bed to the floor. When I caught my breath, I went to my knees to pray for my family. Within moments I received another call that my son had been revived.

“I don’t remember the flurry of details and sequence of events that immediately followed, but I had gone into full battle mode. I think this is pretty common with men — suit up, marshal resources, get a plan and get moving,” Lance continued. “My wife and six of the kids were in the accident, I was taken aback by how beat up everyone was but no broken bones or major injuries.”

Nancy was traveling to Michigan with the children to visit family. The Suburban that carried the family blew a tire in Kearny, Neb., and rolled multiple times at freeway speeds before coming to a stop on the side of the road.

“When I went to see the Suburban, it was like getting kicked in the chest to see how utterly demolished it was. There was blood all over and vomit stuck to the ceiling,” Lance said.

The miracle was that Joshua was revived on the scene and no one was seriously injured. Nancy recalled the intense feelings of fear that gripped her on that Nebraska roadside years ago.

“I kneeled down by his side, sobbing and pleading with God to not take him yet,” Nancy said. “I can’t describe the fear and helplessness I felt.”

For as much as that experience impacted normal day life for a while, everyone healed and each family member was able to deal with the trauma of the accident. However, no one was prepared for what would come next.

“Nancy came to my office to tell me that Josh had cancer,” Lance said. “We both kind of dripped down the wall and held each other and cried. The next day for me, it was once again suit up for battle. That trite phrase 'battling cancer' is more real and accurate than you can imagine.”

Joshua was diagnosed with acute myeloid sarcoma in 2005, a very rare form of leukemia. It consisted of a ball of leukemia locked into the bone of his left leg. Most leukemia travels through the bone marrow, affecting the entire system. Josh’s tumor however, was a ticking time bomb of a lethal dose of cancer. Once the tumor burst, it would overwhelm the system and would be virtually untreatable. After several rounds of chemo, Josh took a turn for the worse.

“When Josh was in the intensive care unit at Primary Children’s, the doctors told us to say our goodbyes,” Nancy said. “I knew that it wasn’t his time yet and he would come home.”

Josh would make a miraculous recovery and was able to return to his family, leaving the pain and suffering of the ICU behind, Josh’s love for life and tolerance for pain gave everyone he came into contact with a boost and renewed sense of what was important. After six months of remission, and a Make a Wish foundation trip to Walt Disney World, he succumbed to tug of cancer and passed away.

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