Faith helped fam­ily sur­vive cancer or­deal

The Sentinel-Record - HER - Hot Springs - - Her Family - By L ind­sey Wells

A lit­tle over two years ago Robin New­comer and her hus­band, Dave, were liv­ing a nor­mal, healthy life, hav­ing been mar­ried al­most 30 years with three grown chil­dren.

Dave called him­self “the ev­ery­thing man.” He was a deck builder, a boat dock builder, a land­scaper and a con­struc­tion worker. “He built some of the best decks here in town, in my opin­ion — in most peo­ple’s opin­ion,” Robin said.

One day in March 2015, Dave came home and was com­plain­ing that some­thing didn’t feel right in his stom­ach. She took him to ur­gent care, where they thought he had a twisted colon, fol­lowed by a trip to the emer­gency room where they thought he had a colon block­age. He was re­ferred to a G.I. doc­tor, who per­formed scope tests and a colonoscopy, but couldn’t find any­thing.

“So they just told him he had gas­tri­tis, just a bad stom­achache ba­si­cally. We spent prob­a­bly two months and he started los­ing weight be­cause he wasn’t able to eat very good,” Robin said.

They fi­nally got a re­fer­ral to visit a G.I. doc­tor in Lit­tle Rock where they learned that Dave had a type of hered­i­tary stage 4 stom­ach cancer in May 2015.

“This doc­tor dug a lit­tle deeper be­cause what hap­pens with this cancer is, say your stom­ach ba­si­cally has three to four dif­fer­ent lay­ers, and the way this cancer grows, it’s kind of like if you take a drop of wa­ter and put in on a pa­per towel. You know how it spreads? Well, that’s how this cancer grows; there’s no tu­mor to see. It spreads in the in­ner lay­ers so when they go in there and look, they don’t see any­thing,” Robin said.

The first rec­om­men­da­tion with this par­tic­u­lar type of cancer is to have the stom­ach re­moved if the cancer hadn’t yet spread out of the stom­ach. They went to a stom­ach cancer sur­geon for test­ing where it was dis­cov­ered that the cancer had spread out of the stom­ach and into the lym­phat­ics, so hav­ing his stom­ach re­moved was no longer an op­tion.

Dave was given a choice: he could en­dure chemo­ther­apy and live another six months, or pass up the chemo­ther­apy and only live four more months. He chose the chemo.

“And bless his heart, he tried to give us six months,” Robin said.

Robin even­tu­ally had to quit her job of 17 years to take care of Dave. They made vis­its to the emer­gency room on a weekly ba­sis, about two to three times a week, she said.

Dave died five months later, on Oct. 22, 2015.

“It’s like the wind gets knocked out of you,” Robin said. “It was all en­com­pass­ing. It was just mov­ing so fast and he was just so sick. We knew from the get-go it was go­ing to be a bat­tle.”

When asked how her hus­band’s cancer di­ag­no­sis af­fected their mar­riage, Robin said, “Other than the fact that it just took us by sur­prise be­cause he was healthy as a horse, it made us closer. Maybe for some it doesn’t, but it made us closer be­cause you have a lot of talks when you know that’s com­ing.”

In a mat­ter of six months, Robin went from be­ing hap­pily mar­ried to

be­ing a widow. Be­cause Dave’s cancer was hered­i­tary, their three kids were also tested. Two out of three of them tested pos­i­tive for the gene.

“If you have this gene mu­ta­tion you’ve got an 80 per­cent chance of fa­tal stom­ach cancer,” Robin said. “So it’s a death sen­tence.”

Robin said that be­cause this type of stom­ach cancer is so rare, mak­ing up less than 3 per­cent of all stom­ach can­cers, try­ing to find a doc­tor who knew any­thing about it was no small task.

“I ended up on the in­ter­net and there’s this site called No Stom­ach for Cancer, and they were in­stru­men­tal in get­ting us where we needed to be and who we needed to be in front of. We ended up in New York City and that’s where they both had their stom­achs re­moved,” she added. “They had their en­tire stom­achs re­moved from the end of their esoph­a­gus to the be­gin­ning of their small in­testines. That’s what’s rec­om­mended. It’s ei­ther that or do noth­ing, and af­ter watch­ing their dad go down so quick both of them were not even hes­i­tat­ing.”

When asked how she got through it, Robin sim­ply said, “by the Grace of God,” adding, “be­tween my faith and my church, it ended up be­ing a fam­ily or­deal. You just keep go­ing. Take care of your­self. You have to be the ad­vo­cate be­cause I had to push to get ev­ery­thing done.”

Robin New­comer with a photo of her late hus­band, Dave New­comer.

Dave New­comer

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