I’ve had two Bobs with cancer in my life. Both, representing a different time during my cancer journey, but equally touching my heart. The first, from Saint Louis, I met back in 2018. We were both going through the hospital registration process at Barnes Jewish Hospital on the same day. Eric and I said hi, introduced ourselves and moved on. An hour of paperwork later we found ourselves on the same elevator. Weird, exiting off the elevator we realized both of us were checking into the bone marrow transplant unit. Bob for a transplant to beat a stubborn leukemia, me for a phase I clinical trial using my own cells and an added protein to start fighting the cancer cells back. If all went well, I would be there for 2-4 weeks and he would be calling the hospital home for the next 90 days.
It ended that we were only 3 rooms apart and I said hi from the hallway during my daily walks. Neither of us could be too close … germs. My transplant had a few less restrictions and I was at least allowed hallway allowances. We both had days where we struggled, but cheerfully brought our smiles to their best when we crossed paths. As anticipated, I was discharged before Bob and we sent our love as we decorated his door prior to departure. His wife, Jeanne kept me up to date through texts regarding his progress. Day 100 and he graduated to home as well. Bob and I kept in touch, although mostly through Jeanne as his overall health struggled to find its way back to something resembling normal.
As we were both frequent hospital fliers, we ran into each other at the cancer clinic fairly frequently.
Bob was visibly losing his battle as complication after complication continued to arise. Nonetheless, he always had a smile for me and was quick to make me feel so special. Bob’s fight eventually came to an end, but I can’t imagine anyone having a better welcome to heaven as the kind heart of Bob. Here is the thing, Bob and I hadn’t been friends forever and we were at least a generation apart in age, but his death gutted me. Perhaps even harder because while we hadn’t been friends since childhood, we were battle buddies and I expected both of us to beat this thing. Statistics to shit, we both deserved to still be here. I keep a picture of us in my room reminding me how lucky I am to have met so many amazing people along this journey. Including Bob, who the anticipation of making his day brighter, could get me out of bed when even Eric couldn’t. I know it sounds strange, but I still miss him every day.
Over the last few years, after being through hell and back, I’ve kind of won the cancer lottery. There are absolutely zero statistics supporting that I should still be here. I have made so many forever friends that have touched my heart and continue to daily although they have passed on. I haven’t really figured out my complete stance on what happens after we die. Or, why some people are given more time and other, sometimes more amazing individuals, have to leave way to soon. I do know that there has to be a God of some sort that provides time and miracles for people like me. I haven’t quite figured out why there is still so much loss and heartbreak for amazing people like Bob. Clinical trials, transplants, and all the crazy attempts that we participate in to prolong life are an absolute battlefield and most days it’s hard to figure out why some make it while others don’t.
I bring up my second Bob because his heart is just as big as my first. His wife and him spend their summers at the lake with us. Bob is quiet and loves long days fishing appreciating the solitude a long, lazy day only summer can provide. Nonetheless, the man has the patience of a saint. We have always spent summers at my mom’s lake house whether I was on treatment or not. Many days, while I was dreaming of nothing, but finding a way to nap the day away, you would find Bob patiently teaching one kid to fish. Their normal 10 minute attention span expanding for Bob to at least an hour. Bob is quick to help literally anyone, but most notably my family. Mechanic problems, general hard labor or volunteering to hang out with our dogs. He was recently diagnosed with not 1, but 2 primary cancers. Surgery has occurred and radiation is pending, but he also statistically has a prognosis of a great outcome. Currently though, he has lost weight, is tired and trying to stay out of the sun (opposite of his personality). But, guess what? Last week when we were talking about his treatment plan he kept saying, “but it’s nothing compared to what you have gone through.” Bob, let me tell you…. you’ve gone through all of the important things with me now. We are cancer buddies. The club that no one wants to be apart of. As soon as the diagnosis of cancer is whispered, the feeling of fear, anxiety and pain in your gut never truly goes away. It can be quieted, like loss, by time, but it bubbles right under the surface. Battle buddies all the way.
Because of Bob’s big heart, I know he will always be more worried about others more than himself. The same way I am. The anxiety I get before Emalee or Taylor have a scan. The prayers I send for all the ladies post cancer that I teach exercise class to. Bobs got this and Taylor and Emalee will also continue to kick cancer’s ass, but I can’t wait for the day my prayers can be sent back to the small things. Until then, I’m still figuring out how to balance ALL of this worry and love. To put all the prayers up to something bigger at night, close my eyes and hand it all over. Give us a shout out if you have it all figured out. I’m confident most of us don’t. I do know that I miss you like crazy Bob. I also know that my other Bob is going to continue to kick cancer’s ass. Everything is so dang complicated, as is most things in life I suppose.
Until next time …
Maybe I will magically have all the answers … probably not …