Two Andersons Experience a Unique Friendship
Of the 21,000 new cases of multiple myeloma diagnosed each year in the United States, two happened to men with the same last name of Anderson. They were treated by the same specialist – Dr. Kelly McCaul of Avera Medical Group Hematology & Bone Marrow Transplant – and both had bone marrow transplants to treat their conditions a week apart.
Bob Anderson of Alcester was diagnosed after seeking medical care for severe back pain. Gerry Anderson of Sioux Falls, who owns a landscape business, was diagnosed after he had lower back pain and then shoulder pain, which he attributed to a possible rotator cuff injury. It turns out both had multiple myeloma, a cancer of the plasma cells which causes bone deterioration. They met in the waiting room, and their friendship continued to develop.
Both underwent chemotherapy soon after their diagnosis to begin fighting the cancer, and Gerry had shoulder surgery. Their stem cells were then collected and frozen, and then both had a strong dose of chemotherapy right before the transplant. Bob had his transplant during the last week of May 2011, and Gerry’s transplant took place June 1. Bob’s wife, Bobette, and Gerry’s wife, Tammy, kept the connection between the two families going while the men were hospitalized.
“Your transplant day is described as your new birth date,” Gerry says. Multiple myeloma is incurable, but complete and ongoing remission is the goal through bone marrow transplant and follow-up treatment with an oral chemo medication, Revlimid.
The two say they share plenty of laughs, “war stories” about their treatment and side effects, and most of all, a deep understanding of what the other is experiencing. “Both Bob and I agree that we’ve been dealt this hand, so we might as well be positive,” Gerry says. “I’m here, and I thank God for every day I have. You just take it one day at a time.”
Bob and Gerry said it wasn’t only the support of each other and their wives, families and friends that helped them through this difficult time in life, but also the support of the bone marrow transplant team at Avera. “Everyone, from the receptionist to the nurses, doctors and transplant coordinators, was so helpful,” Gerry said. “Everything was new to us, so we had a lot of questions, but they made it easier to go through. It was pretty much like clockwork for them. They knew exactly what to do, and we were able to put our trust in them.” Bob said he appreciated daily visits from a hospital chaplain, and was encouraged by the knowledge that God was looking out for him, and others were praying for him.
Bob said that while his disease has been difficult, he’s fortunate to have a facility like the Avera Cancer Institute near his home town, instead of traveling hundreds of miles away. Gerry agreed about the great care at Avera. “Just like the signs in the hospital say, we’ve ALWAYS been treated with very good care.”