ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Lou Golson is in the second fight of his life.
The retired APD officer who survived bullet wounds after being shot during a traffic stop in 2015 now faces stage three melanoma.
According to friends, Golson’s response was typical: “At least it’s not stage four.”
And of course, his friends never heard about it from Golson, now a retired 32-year veteran of the Albuquerque Police Department.
Retired Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Sgt. Paul Jacobs learned of the diagnosis when Golson’s wife, April, called him to let him know her husband’s six-hour surgery to remove the cancer and lymph nodes in his arms and back had gone well.
Jacobs response was “What surgery?”
Golson had never told him about the cancer diagnosis he received in September.
The two men had met in the hospital in 2015 when Golson was recovering from multiple surgeries for his wounds while Jacobs was recovering from severe back injuries suffered on duty when a drunken driver crashed into his motorcycle.
Golson, 59, was shot three times in January 2015 by Christopher Cook during a routine traffic stop. Cook was sentenced to 20 years in state prison and 17 years in federal prison on charges stemming from the attack.
Two bullets struck Golson’s armored vest, breaking his ribs, and another bullet hit him in the leg causing a spiral fracture of his femur. He also broke his wrist falling to the ground after being shot.
Doctors told Golson he wouldn’t walk again without assistance and would never fire a pistol.
He proved them wrong, but the lengthy healing process exhausted his leave, which meant no paycheck, and he got into a protracted fight with the city over his medical care.
Golson’s savings were depleted by the time he finally retired in 2016.
Financially, Golson said he was just beginning to get back on track this past summer.
But he still feels the effects from the shooting. Just before he was diagnosed with cancer, he received two injections in his hip to deal with the pain from his leg wound.
In 2018, Golson decided to make what turned out to be an unsuccessful run for Bernalillo County sheriff.
That’s when he and Jacobs renewed their friendship and Jacobs became an enthusiastic campaign worker.
The friendship became closer.
“When you’re in the hospital all the people from the department stop by, but when you’re in rehabilitation and at home you become separated from all those friends in law enforcement,” Jacobs said. “You become isolated because you’re not on the job anymore.”
When Jacobs got the telephone call from April telling him her husband was going to have to ante up more than $4,000 for the insurance co-pay for his surgery, Jacobs decided his friend needed help.
He started calling people in the law enforcement community to raise money for the co-pay.
“When I met people who wanted to donate, I was really impressed by how many of them told me how much Lou had impacted their lives,” Jacobs said.
Jacobs was a little apprehensive when he gave Golson the first batch of donations.
“He really is a very humble man, and I was worried about how he would react,” Jacobs said. “He told me it felt weird.
“I told him about all the conversations I had and that he should be proud. It’s one thing to be in law enforcement and make an impact on people’s lives, but when you impact other law enforcement officers’ lives, then you have truly accomplished something,” Jacobs said.
Golson accepted the money and allowed Jacobs to set up a Go Fund Me page on Facebook.
“The costs are going to continue to pile up,” Jacobs said.
In a telephone interview Golson said he is feeling “OK” but dealing with his cancer will be a “long haul.”
“Sometimes I get flashbacks to 2015,” Golson said. “I have four doctors now – a primary, a surgeon, a pathologist and an oncologist.”
Golson said he has been concerned about melanoma since the same cancer killed his father at the age of 37.
He is waiting on tests – which were delayed because one of his surgical sites got infected – to determine exactly what type of therapy he will undergo.
“I manage to keep a positive attitude about 99 percent of the time,” Golson said. “I have to be positive, that’s all I know.”
UpFront is a regular Journal news and opinion column. Comment directly to investigative reporter Mike Gallagher at firstname.lastname@example.org.