Army Bob: Kind words indispensible when battling cancer

In the American Continental Army there was a saying that anyone can be a sunshine patriot or fair-weather soldier. The true test of people is adversity, how we handle it, how we help others through it, how we conduct ourselves during it.

As someone who was trained to understand the importance of the morale and welfare of others, it was difficult to find myself as the person who needed a kind word or a helping hand. Diagnosed with advanced aggressive cancer — three words that you never want to hear spoken in the same sentence are, advanced, aggressive, and cancer.

We as friends and family cannot do much to cure others diagnosed with cancer, but we can do wonders for their morale and welfare. My family members stepped up and were outstanding. My sister, a nurse and professor of nursing was a rock, going with us to the meetings with the various doctors and advising us on the various treatment options. However, this column will deal with true friends and not relatives and how you get to understand who they are, and a few words on how to help others.

The initial diagnosis was in a word scary; I will not give you the numbers, but they were bad, very bad. Then Dr. Julie Forstner at the Metro Cancer Center entered our lives. At first, I was concerned with a doctor without a prostate treating my cancer of the prostate.

She was a breath of fresh air, an upbeat, exceptional, competent doctor who spent an hour and a half just speaking with us in our first appointment. She explained the treatment she planned for me, not a one size first all treatment, and why I needed an aggressive targeted treatment plan. She showed us what the test showed, the X-Rays, MRI, CT scans and how the planned assault she mapped out was the best course of action and asked if we agreed. The treatment plan called for nine weeks of radiation in conjunction with long hard-hitting drug treatments; no half measures, a full on frontal assault on the disease, precisely what we wanted.

During the nine weeks of radiation, to be honest, I did not feel great, but a few good people stepped up and I will never forget them. David Young and Ranger Rick were supportive, very supportive.

Dave is a proud liberal and we are different men, but as a cancer survivor himself, his just listening to me on many occasions was a help. I will never agree with him politically, but I will fight anyone who condemns his compassion and concern for a friend.

Ranger Rick, a brother in arms and fellow conservative, also proved his worth as a solid friend.

Carolyn Sandel, the chairperson of the Dorr Citizens Road Committee, and all the selfless members of that group sent me a card, a small thing that was very much appreciated. Carolyn also called to see if she could help, and meant it. Many neighbors also sent cards; all the cards are displayed on my desk so I don’t forget the kindness folks showed.

Anne, a truly outstanding person and neighbor, was an angel, kind and helpful, stopping by just to ask how it was going. She was later in need of support herself and we made two large posters wishing her well and waited by the road with the signs when she and Kal drove by returning from the hospital to wish her well. A simple thing but that’s what friends should do.

So finally let me say that the best medicine for a person with a medical problem, especially cancer, is to just ask, how are you doing, how is it going, and just listening. A friend or coworker with a sick child or parent, spouse or relative needs support as well, and the simple question of how are you doing and how is your child, parent, spouse or friend doing?

It costs nothing, but it is worth more than you will ever know; let’s pray you never need to know the genuine value of a kind word and a true friend.




  • Bob, you didn’t say how you are doing now. I hope you can say that you are a survivor in the best standing. In all of human conditions, sincere kindness and compassion work wonders on many levels. Your call to that kindness and compassion is especially appropriate at this blessed season of the year. May the new year bring you continued health and peace. Thanks for a lovely article.

    • Mrs. Mandaville,
      Thank you for asking.
      Time will tell, the drugs (Lupron) will check the growth for two more years, then become ineffective, after that we see how effective the IMRT radiation was and if it killed it all. Dr. Forstner gives us better than a 50/50 chance, Drugs with the radiation are 8 to10% more effective, some don’t like the side effects and decline the drugs, as the cancer was the most aggressive type we chose the most aggressive treatment.
      Thanks again for asking.

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