Robert Kessler has led a full life for sure. He has lived in Buffalo, WY, since 1964. He has been in the Navy, run his own business in Buffalo, and then went back to school for a teaching degree and taught school in Ranchester and Buffalo for 20 years. To say he is always on the move is an understatement.
But in 1972, Robert “broke his knee” and a little lump developed behind his knee that never went away. Then, recently while traveling in Australia, his knee became very painful. Once home, he went to the VA Hospital in Sheridan and in May of 2019 received a diagnosis of soft tissue sarcoma (cancer) in that lump.
After radiation and surgery, additional cancer was found in the lymph nodes of his thigh . That’s when the chemotherapy started.
“It was a pretty tough regimen and I know now why people hate chemo,” Robert stated. “You get to a point where you wonder if it’s worth it.”
After receiving the first round of chemo in Salt Lake City, Robert was able to transition his care to the Welch Cancer Center (Welch) in Sheridan for the next round.
“It’s 30 minutes away instead of eight hours,” Robert said, “and it meant a lot.”
Robert started the second regimen at the Welch in 2020 after a PET scan revealed the first round had not done its job. Having his treatment close to home made it much more palatable.
“This time, I was able to be home and that was very helpful and comforting,” he said.
However, after the second round of chemo, he was told by his doctors in Salt Lake that the cancer was still progressing and the prognosis was dim.
“I asked them how long I had, and they told me 12 months. So I started to get my affairs in order, as they say, to make sure my family was taken care of. I even bought a stone and put my name on it. I cried all the way home from Salt Lake,” Robert said.
Lucky for Robert, shortly after that hard-to-swallow conversation, a new drug hit the market. Robert and his cancer care teams agreed it would be good to try.
“And after visiting with Dr. Ratterman, it was determined I could get the treatment at the Welch,” he added. “The coordination between the team in Salt Lake and the Welch was amazing. Very professional.”
The new treatment began in October of 2020 and the following April, another PET scan revealed a significant improvement, so additional treatment was in order. Another scan after that showed even more improvement.
“We pretty much have it on the run, but cancer is diabolically sneaky,” Robert said. “This coming February, I will have my 17th treatment of the new drug regimen. We will keep going as long as it keeps working and my immune system continues to tolerate it.”
There are a few lingering effects from all the cancer care, but he says things are good now, “I feel good and it isn’t slowing me down. I do everything I used to do, only a little slower. I have no after-effects from the treatments. After my last infusion, we got in the car and drove to Arizona.”
Robert has high praise for the teams that continue to keep him going. He says the coordination of care between all the teams was professional and the level of respect was very evident. He adds that he felt the knowledge base of the Welch team was great and he never had to wait for an answer.
“The level of care at the Welch was fantastic and I would encourage anyone needing cancer care to visit with the team at the Welch,” he said emphatically.
With a little chuckle, he adds, “They have done a great job of keeping me alive two years after my expiration date. But in all seriousness, I have nothing but glowing respect and admiration for Dr. Ratterman and Nurse Practitioner Nina Beach and the whole team of nurses at the Welch. I always feel like they are treating one of their own family when I see them. They are very caring people and they never treated me as if I was going to die.”
Anyone wanting to learn more about services provided at The Welch Cancer Center please visit https://www.sheridanhospital.org/medical-services/welch-cancer-center/ or call 307.674.6022.