Ringing with Hope - Bob Walker
Physicians: Peter Paximadis, MD; Benjamin Stockton, MD
Husband. Father. Manager. For a man who’s had many titles over the years, Bob Walker, 71, now celebrates another he has added to the list: survivor.
As a retiree, Bob fills his time caring for family members, golfing, boating, and traveling with his wife Karen throughout the United States. That all changed when he was diagnosed with an aggressive form of prostate cancer last year.
Upon hearing the news, Bob met with radiation oncologist Peter Paximadis, MD, and urologist Benjamin Stockton, MD, to discuss a treatment plan.
Because of his test results, they suggested surgery as soon as possible.
“Both Dr. Paximadis and Dr. Stockton were very upfront,” said Bob. “They discussed my options and a course of action. They shared their thoughts and advice, but ultimately they left the decisions up to my wife and me.”
Throughout the experience, Bob appreciated how his doctors collaborated with him and Karen and included them in the treatment plan. Bob was also supported by the radiation oncology team as he underwent radiation treatments, which use high-energy X-rays to kill cancer cells with minimal pain. Treatments can be daily for up to eight weeks at a time, which means patients and staff get to know each other well.
“All of the staff were phenomenal,” said Bob. “From the very first day when they came and got me out of the waiting room, I could tell they cared. They asked how I was doing and what I had planned later in the day. They took the time to talk with me.”
“Even little things, like a radiation technician remembering a song I had mentioned earlier, just really touched me,” said Bob. “Everyone was so thoughtful.”
After surgery and treatment, Bob started on the road to recovery.
“I didn’t have the side effects I thought I might,” he said. “In fact, it seems as if I’ve beaten the odds. Four different tests came back and showed that my body responded well to treatment, considering how aggressive the cancer was.”
During his treatment, Bob knew he wanted to do something to celebrate his care team and help other cancer patients.
“I heard about a retired Navy Admiral who started a tradition of ringing a bell after completing his cancer treatment,” he said. “In the Navy, eight bells rung signify the end of a watch. The Admiral took that tradition and changed it to three bells for cancer treatment. One for what was endured, two for today, and three for the future. It’s now a tradition around the country.”
Bob assembled and donated a bell and plaque written by the Admiral so patients receiving radiation therapy at Lakeland Medical Center could also have the opportunity to celebrate.
“There’s joy in completing treatment or even a stage of it. It’s a celebration that you finished and a credit to the staff,” said Bob.
Keeping with tradition, Bob had the honor of ringing the bell on his last day of treatment.
“I get choked up thinking about it,” he said. “It was exciting and such a joy to see the smiles from everybody who worked there.”
Now that the bell is installed, Lakeland Medical Center is literally ringing with hope and positivity.
“I hope it helps provide positive thoughts to someone receiving treatment who might be having a bad day,” said Bob.
Ultimately the bell is a tribute to others who have been affected by cancer and the care team that helped to see Bob through his treatment.
“The staff motivated me,” he said. “I didn’t want to have cancer – no one does – and honestly I didn’t want to undergo radiation. But everybody put me at ease, and with their support, I made it through.”
Prostate cancer affects 1 in every 9 men. Symptoms aren’t always obvious and can be confused with other conditions. The good news is that prostate cancer is one of the most treatable forms of cancer when caught early. Learn the signs and schedule a screening
Photo credit: Freedom Boat Club of Michiana