I spoke to Bob Ringen the night before he was going to be transferred from the hospital to a facility with a robust physical therapy program that would help him walk again. I spent time with him and his wife in the hospital room, which he had spent for the last month and a half; he was ready to leave the hospital and restart his life again.
Bob was diagnosed with sarcoma 6 months before my interview, after noticing a painless lump on his right calf. He was mad, disappointed, and sad all at the same time. He thought of his time as a Marine in the 1950’s and the numerous toxins he was exposed to, and how perhaps it was affecting him now by contributing to his cancer. He was nervous he would lose his leg, but thankfully, after several rounds of radiation to the area with the lump, Dr. DiCaprio removed the sarcoma and plastic surgeons from Albany Medical Center were able to harvest skin grafts from around his hips to transplant around the area of his leg that didn’t have viable skin anymore due to the radiation and extensive surgical resection. Bob hadn’t walked in months and was looking forward to learning how to walk again.
Bob has a very supportive family, with many grandchildren, and great grandchildren. They have a great time laughing and joking around with each other. One of his granddaughters, Bri, even made an 80th birthday cake for him (pictured above) of a coffin and freshly dug grave. He is looking forward to spending more time with his family after leaving the hospital. As an older gentleman in his 80’s, this sarcoma diagnosis was an awakening for him—making time feel more precious. He advises other patients in similar situations “to never give up, keep fighting, even at an older age. Age doesn’t matter.” Join us in honoring Sarcoma Warriors like Bob Ringen at the annual 5k on 8/17/19 at UAlbany.
Interview by Zohal Ghulam-Jelani