“ Knowledge can compartmentalize the fear a bit. Reach out to those that have survived what you’re facing. Most are willing to share what they’ve learned during their medical journeys and can provide great insight into what you might consider that can help you as you progress along your path to becoming a cancer survivor.
Rob Harris is a very accomplished mAss Kicker! He is the Founder and President of RobCares, LLC. He is also the author of the #1 bestselling book in Amazon.com: “We’re In This Together, A Caregiver’s Story“. www.RobCares.com provides valuable information through videos, recorded interviews, blogs and resources, as well as soon-to-be available products and services for those in need. Rob has spoken at numerous conferences and conventions. He has also has published numerous articles for several nonprofit and charitable organizations. We were very honored to find time in his busy schedule to ask him some questions.
mK: Hi Rob! Thanks for doing this! So, what is your relationship to tumors/cancer?
RH: My wife is a two-time cancer survivor. I have been her caregiver throughout her battles with the disease, as well as the ongoing medical issues that continue to plague us today due to the impact cancer had on her physically.
mK: Why are you so involved in cancer advocacy? What organizations are you involved with?
RH: There are so many people that are going through their cancer journeys that are unsure of what to do and who is available to assist. I was one of them. My goal is to assist those in need and I have been focused on doing so for quite some time.
Presently, I correspond with and assist all organizations involved in helping those suffering from cancer. I’ve spoken at several conferences pro bono (without receiving a gratuity) in order to help those in attendance and the non-profit organizations that host the events. At the moment, the organizations I am presently most closely aligned to include Stupid Cancer, Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, Annie Appleseed, and CureLauncher.
mK: What motivates you?
RH: Three simple words, “You have cancer.” When I heard those words, though they were not spoken to me directly, I felt lost, worried and alone. Suddenly, I was to be the caregiver for my wife, which required immediate mental, physical and emotional adjustments to my life. I had no idea what to do or where to go to learn my new assignment. I was too proud to admit I was not in control of my situation and did not reach out to others. As a result, I learned to be a caregiver through trial and error. I decided I never want anyone else facing what I did to feel and experience what I did. As a result, I started a caregiver advocacy organization (RobCares), wrote two books on caregiving (one that will soon be released), cohost a weekly radio show and focus all my energies in helping caregivers and their loved ones throughout their medical journeys.
mK: Who is your personal hero or are your heroes?
RH: My hero is the most important person in my life, my “starter wife” of 33 years (yes, I’m an “old dude,” but not quite a senior citizen yet). I so admire her spirit with all she’s been through. Briefly, she was not supposed to survive. Given a 28% chance of survival and a prediction of less than four months to remain on this earth, she proved the power of positive thinking and the will to live can make a difference in her future. Through brutal rounds of chemotherapy, nine surgeries, three trips to the Intensive Care Unit, one event in which she flat lined and an above the knee leg amputation, she always makes sure to laugh, love and care about others.
When she was moved back to the oncology wing of the hospital after being in ICU for several days, she coined a phrase we both live by today, known as “ESD.” It stands for “live Every Stinkin’ Day as if it’s your last day on earth.” In other words, don’t let a day go by without doing something memorable, or helping others.
We began RobCares with that in mind. We also love to commit random acts of kindness as often as possible. When we see someone that seems to be in need, we try to do something to make his or her day a bit brighter. However, we always do so anonymously. We never want them to know who gave them the gift, whatever it may be.
My wife changed my perception and focus upon what’s important in life. For that reason, she is my hero.
mK: What makes you laugh, cry, angry?
RH: (1) I laugh as often as possible, as, for me, it’s an essential emotion in feeling good. I laugh at my pets (two dogs and two cats) and anything else that brings humor to my life. It doesn’t take much for me to laugh.
(2) What makes me cry? I confess, I do shed a “man-tear” or two. I get emotionally involved with many of those I’ve met through RobCares. When one succumbs to cancer, I take it very hard. Recently, I finally met in person a fellow author at a book signing we both attended that I had admired and corresponded with for the better part of a year. When I learned of her passing, which was not unexpected, it affected me deeply. Losing people you’ve come to like and admire to cancer has caused me to shed many tears. I also get choked up when I see or learn of heartwarming stories of compassion and love displayed toward others that don’t expect to be the recipients of the kindness.
(3) What makes me angry? Anyone that takes advantage of another human being for any reason or treats them as less than an equal. Bullying is something that I have a zero tolerance level for and find myself sometimes overreacting emotionally. Often, I need my wife to talk sense into me to prevent me from overreacting. Another issue for which I cannot keep my mouth shut is when someone that does not have a handicapped parking placard or license plate parks in a space reserved for those in need. I rarely am able to look the other way and have gotten into verbal confrontations with the offender when they know they’re in the wrong and act like they don’t care.
mK: What would you say is the most interesting thing you’ve done?
RH: I would have to say writing a book is something I never thought I would ever do in my lifetime. Having it become a #1 bestseller on Amazon.com (physician & patient caregiver category) for my book, We’re In This Together: A Caregiver’s Story blew me away. Being a caregiver advocate has been my passion. I’ve had the good fortune to be fairly successful in business and in my personal life, but nothing has been more rewarding than this.
mK: Based on what you’ve observed, what is the toughest challenge a survivor faces?
RH: If you’re familiar with the term, “PTSD,” which stands for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, I would have to think that is one of the most impactful issues a survivor faces. Many survivors I’ve spoken to share that every day, every ache, pain or physical discomfort, every doctor’s appointment and everything else medically-related brings the overriding fear that the cancer has returned. The mental anguish many suffer with in silence can be overwhelming.
mK: Let’s get to know you… What is your guilty pleasure?
RH: Dark chocolate and the only TV series I regularly watch, “Scandal.”
mK: hee hee… nothing to feel guilty about… Another question… If you could go back and tell your 13 year old self anything, what would you say?
RH: It’s not all about you. Try giving back and helping those in need more often. Try not to focus on who has the most toys and games. It’s about what you’ve done to improve the life of someone who is less fortunate than yourself. Once you’ve done so, you will feel enriched beyond imagination.
mK: What do you like to do in your spare time?
RH: Honestly, I have very little time for recreational activities. When I do, I enjoy spending time with my wife. It doesn’t matter what we do, as long as we do it together. When you almost lose the most important person in your life, you want to spend every spare minute together.
mK: What are you up to now?
RH: At the moment, my publisher and I are working toward releasing my second book, We’re In This Together: A Caregiver’s Guide. I have also formed a committee of corporate executives and my oldest son (an Army Captain, twice deployed to Afghanistan) that are helping me create and eventually distribute a product that will assist caregivers, patients, family members and friends of those that has been stricken with cancer. I have been devoting every spare minute available into the research and development of this product.
mK: Cool! Any advice for people or loved ones that get daunting diagnoses?
RH: Network, network, network! Surround yourself with as many people as possible that can assist you on your upcoming medical journey. Conduct research and learn as much as possible about what you’re facing. Knowledge can compartmentalize the fear a bit. Reach out to those that have survived what you’re facing. Most are willing to share what they’ve learned during their medical journeys and can provide great insight into what you might consider that can help you as you progress along your path to becoming a cancer survivor.
mK: Tell us something about yourself that people probably didn’t know… anything.
RH: This is perhaps a trivial piece of information, but I studied and taught martial arts for the better part of 30 years.
mK: Any parting words for all the mAss Kickers?
RH: I learned of mAss Kickers when I first encountered a tumor survivor and mAss Kicker who has become someone I care a great deal about, Catherine Blotner. She is now a freshman at Arizona State University. We met at a summit in Phoenix and I have never been more impressed with the maturity and intelligence of someone who, at the time, was only 16 years old. She was passing out mAss Kickers stickers and I asked her about the organization. Since then, I have been a fan of the organization.
If you are a member of mAss Kickers, then you know how important it is to be connected to others that are facing or have faced what you are going through. Get to know them on a personal level. When Catherine was going through brain surgery, she posted videos on YouTube that chronicled what has to be the most frightening moments of her life. Don’t let her young age fool you. She is brilliant beyond her years.
Rob Harris: Dark chocolate addict, caring individual, kung-fu master, dedicated husband, and powerful cancer advocate. We are looking forward to the next book! Thanks again Rob! Check out RobCares.com for some great information!