Bob Kaufman wasn’t used to a slow-paced life. Once a producer on the nationally televised CBS: This Morning, he’s now the chief communications officer for the state of Texas Department of Transportation. He also ran marathons, played lacrosse, golf and more.
“Physical fitness is in my DNA,” he says.
But in 2009, he started to struggle to keep pace. That’s when he was diagnosed with stage IV non-Hodgkin Lymphoma. After chemo treatments, the non-Hodgkin Lymphoma returned. His doctors determined he needed a more aggressive treatment plan: a stem-cell transplant.
“When I was going through the discovery process, I asked the doctor, ‘What makes me such a good candidate for a stem-cell transplant? This seems high-risk, but high-reward.’”
But the docs determined the transplant was a low-risk, high-reward treatment, given his fitness level and relative youth. He was 48 at the time of his diagnosis. With the support of his wife, Lisa, and two kids, he decided to go ahead with it.
“When I really needed to follow doctor’s orders and Lisa was helping take care of me, it allowed her to update but also to do what we needed to do—focus on ourselves—to get better.”
And he kept everyone informed through his CaringBridge website.
“We use CaringBridge as a one-stop shop to communicate with family and friends without being tied down to responding to phone calls. When I really needed to follow doctor’s orders and Lisa was helping take care of me, it allowed her to update but also to do what we needed to do—focus on ourselves—to get better.”
A Journey Recorded
There was also an unintended benefit: After Bob’s recovery from the stem-cell transplant, he had a record of his thoughts, emotions and treatments right at his fingertips to help him put his book, Replenished, together.
“The vehicle that is CaringBridge is a remarkable advancement in communication. The mission is excellent, and certainly proven to be a great vision on the part of the people who founded it. I’m grateful to it.”
In fact, as Bob began weaving together his story, which mixes medical science with emotional and psychological well-being and motivational spirituality, he decided to use some of his CaringBridge passages verbatim. His CaringBridge Journal entries most accurately captured his feelings—to make it more concrete for others looking to treat their blood cancer with a stem-cell transplant.
What every cancer fighter hopes for, but is tentative to count on, is a four-letter word: Cure.
What every cancer fighter hopes for, but is tentative to count on, is a four-letter word: Cure. Five years after his transplant, the Austin American-Statesman published a profile story about his treatment and survival. In it, Bob’s doctor, Dr. Issa Khouri, told the reporter he felt it was “very likely” Bob was cured of his non-Hodgkin Lymphoma.
“I’d never heard him say that until I read that,” Bob says.
Life After Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma
Bob focused on one thing during his fight with non-Hodgkin Lymphoma: Getting back to a normal life. And, he says, for the most part, his life is back to normal.
“One of the great things I learned in recovery from a friend of mine is the saying, ‘Everyday is a gift, that’s why they call it the present.’”
“I look at everyday with the greatest amount of hope and opportunity because I was given this second chance.”
“I look at everyday with the greatest amount of hope and opportunity because I was given this second chance. I had a hell of a lot of luck on my side. There should be no discount in the importance of being lucky,” he adds.
These days, what brings Bob fulfillment is getting his book, Replenished, into the hands of people who need it most, to provide his story as a means of hope and encouragement in a physically and emotionally fraught time.
“The best is when someone contacts me and says, ‘I read your book and it feels like you wrote my story,’” he says.
So, he says, dwelling on the past is something he just doesn’t have time for. He’s pouring his time into supporting current patients with his book, with the added bonus of perspective now that he’s come through to the other side, six years later.
“At the time, cancer is a very daunting experience to go through, but you cannot let something like cancer define your life. You have to get on the best way you can. I have kids to raise, I have a big job for the citizens in the state of Texas, I have to look toward the future.”
Tell Us Your Story
Are you going through treatment for non-Hodgkin Lymphoma or another disease that may require a stem-cell transplant? Have you experienced stem-cell transplant recovery? Please share your story and tips for coping in the comments. Or, read Stephanie’s story of her Hodgkin’s Lymphoma journey.