Drill, Bar, Blast & Load

Larry, Former Uranium Miner & Nuclear Care Partners Patient

My Experience in the Uranium Mines of Utah & Colorado

Larry Key uranium miningI started working in the mines out in Moab, Utah when I was 18 years old. You were either a carpenter, a miner, or a construction worker. My dad and three of my brothers worked in the uranium mines.  Mining was just what my family did, and I loved it. 

For the first 12 years of my mining experience, I worked right in the face of the mine. Drill, bar, blast, and load is the easiest way to explain it. We did everything for the extraction of the uranium and I took the mining very seriously. After the first 12 years working as a miner I went into management for about six years. To me, it was more than the work; it was the extraction of the ground, the ground movement, and taking care of the ground. 

We moved out to Grand Junction to raise our family and I worked out there in the mines for about 10 years. The job was very fun and I was introduced to new types of mining and all kinds of new technologies. I loved the people and I loved the work, but I wish I had taken some pictures. I have such vivid memories of things I saw underground that I wish I could share with people. 

I knew I had been exposed to harmful radiation and I always thought about the air. I think they knew we were being exposed and knew there would be consequences. But it’s like anything, you never know what’s going to happen, and once we start learning more about it we have to make changes. 

I was diagnosed with terminal esophageal cancer caused by my exposure at the mines, but my health problems began years ago with my heart. I had to have a double bypass done and then began to have problems with my lungs and stomach as well. I started seeing my pulmonary doctor for my lung issues a few years back and that’s when they found nodules on my lungs. They kept an eye on them but later found that they were cancerous. All of my health issues — with my lungs, stomach and heart — are all connected and sprung from the exposure at the mines. I don’t like having this disease, but I have it, and I’m going to live with it. I know I’ve had a very good and rewarding life, I wouldn’t trade it for anything. 

When they found cancer in the nodules in my lungs I decided to have an operation to remove them, but really struggled with my recovery. I was aspirating everything back into my lungs and had to stay in the hospital for about seven weeks. It was a really tough time. I’ll never forget when NCP found me and came to the hospital when I was struggling to heal. They were so good to me and got me qualified for home care before I even got out of the hospital.

When I got out of the hospital I stayed at my daughter’s house and was on 24-hour care while I recovered from my operation. But as they helped me I became more stable and started improving. I was able to come back home and continue improving with the help of my wonderful nurses.

I’ve never been so happy in my life to have someone care for me and work with me so much. They help me with anything I need and actively keep me doing things to make sure that I take care of myself. I’ve got a life that I can still live and I want a quality of life, they give me that. They help me do the things I want to do. They really care. 

Nuclear Care Partners is at the top of my list. They do so much for me to make my life better and that’s worth a whole bunch.

To read this full article in our Fall 2021 edition of Atomic Health News, click here.