Cancer diagnosis sends Manzke family on arduous journey

Susan Manzke
Bob coming out of the radiation machine after his third treatment.

A combination of things sent Bob to visit our local doctor. The first thing was that his hip was hurting, the one that had been replaced. Bob couldn’t lie on his left side without pain. That got us wondering if he had slipped and messed up the replaced hip.

While Bob was having his hip checked out, he mentioned to the doctor that a lump under his arm had changed—this lump had been checked numerous times in the past without issue. Now the change was dramatic.

An x-ray showed that the replaced hip was not out of place. It was the muscle around it that was giving Bob pain.

For the lump, Bob had a mammogram (yes, men have mammograms, too) and a scan. A biopsy was ordered as was an MRI.

All results pointed to the return of Bob’s melanoma. The worst part was it had spread.

An Oncology appointment was set up. I asked if we could bring one of our children with to help us comprehend all that we needed to know. They said fine. Soon, all four of our children wanted to attend that appointment. I asked again if everyone could come. Their answer, “The more the merrier. Family support is always welcome.”

When the time came, we filled up the exam room. Some of our children had their cell phones in their hands. It might have looked like they were distracted by emails, but that wasn’t correct. They were taking notes of things we all needed to know.

Bob couldn’t start chemo until he had radiation for three spots on his brain. This happened pretty fast. A mask was made of his head as a computer figured where the machine would zap the spots. The hardest part for Bob was lying still for an hour or more while things were set up and the spots zapped. The staff worked hard to keep him comfortable, still, he had to tough it out and not move even a tiny bit—Bob said he was afraid he’d sneeze and ruin everything. Luckily he didn’t.

Later, after getting the go-ahead to start the chemo drugs, we came home with pages of possible side effects. The medications were so potent I had to wear gloves just to hand them to Bob. I was so scared to be alone with Bob that our children took turns spending the night at the farm. No big side effects happened, but I sure appreciated having help around.

Son, Russell attaches a grab bar in the bathroom while his father kibitzes.

Our son Russell brought and installed grab bars in both our bathrooms. Bob could only watch and advise placement. That’s hard for Bob. He’s usually the one doing the work around here.

Now Bob can no longer take the stairs, so we both stay on the first floor, sleeping in recliners for now. Good thing Bob’s chair is power operated because he needs the lift to get to his feet.

We’ve been sharing our lives in this column, both good and bad, since 1980. It’s not easy to write about problems, but we think that maybe someone would see an early sign of a health problem because of what we say and get to a doctor in time to make a difference.

Bob has good days and not so good days. His appetite isn’t the best so if he likes something to eat, like Cherry Garcia ice cream, he gets it.

Our children bring us food, companionship, and insist on taking us to doctor appointments. Each one has been here for us, along with their families. We couldn’t ask for a better family.

We won’t know how well the chemo drugs are working for another couple of months. Bob will have more scans then. Right now we’re looking forward to spring and trips on our cart down to the woods.

FYI: We’ve gotten so many cards and notes it may take months to thank you all. We appreciate every single one. We may not be rich, yet we have many friends—some we’ve never met—and that makes us happy. Thanks for being there for us.

Susan and Bob Manzke, Sunnybook Farm, N8646 Miller Rd, Seymour, WI 54165;