PERU - When AuSable Forks native Robert "Bob" Wilkins was diagnosed with stage four colon cancer, it was news that came out of nowhere.
Wilkins' sister-in-law, Melody LaFountain, Keeseville, said when he was recently diagnosed with the life-threatening condition, it was the last thing he expected to hear.
"About six weeks ago, Bob was doubled over in pain with a stomachache," said LaFountain. "When he was taken to the hospital, the doctors originally thought he had diverticulitis, which is a common condition, so they put him on some antibiotics."
However, Wilkins - who lives in Peru with his wife, Lisa, and their three children, Melinda, Bobby and Christa - soon learned his situation wasn't as simple as a common digestive disease.
"Within a week he was doubled over again and had to be rushed back to the hospital," said LaFountain.
Specialists were called in, she said, initially thinking Wilkins might have Crohn's disease, an inflammatory disease that affects the body's gastrointestinal tract. However, Wilkins eventually underwent a colonoscopy and the cancer was finally found.
"He ended up needing emergency surgery and they took out part of his colon," said LaFountain. "They found the cancer had metastasized to his liver where it created two spots and they also found a spot on his lung."
The prognosis from that point wasn't good, said LaFountain.
"The doctors have given him 18-24 months for survival," said LaFountain. "I mean, he's 40 years old and has three beautiful kids and a wife. We were all devastated."
Though doctors have painted a bleak picture of Wilkins' future, he and his family have not given up hope, said LaFountain. Already, Wilkins has begun chemotherapy treatments at CVPH Fitzpatrick Cancer Center in Plattsburgh, which he is expected to continue until Aug. 5. At that point, Wilkins will be able to receive a second opinion on his diagnosis to see if the chemotherapy has been effective enough on its own, said LaFountain.
Once his first round of chemotherapy is complete, she continued, he could potentially go to the Jay Monahan Center for Gastrointestinal Health or the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, both in New York City, for further examination.
"Now, the game plan is to get all his paperwork done in June so he'll be ready for August," said LaFountain. "Because, they don't just take you immediately. They want you to have gone through the first round of chemo for the doctors to see if the chemo's working or not, and see if there are any noninvasive procedures they can do. There are some experimental things they could do, but they want to see what else can be done before they get to that point."
Though Wilkins has insurance through his employer, McCadam Distributing, Plattsburgh, there are still co-pays and other expenses related to his treatment that are expected to cause financials strain on the Wilkins family, said LaFountain. That's why she has helped organize a fundraiser to be held this Sunday, May 31, at Crickets Restaurant in Peru.
The restaurant will host a spaghetti dinner from 2-7 p.m., charging $15 per person, with children charged $5 each. The proceeds from the dinner, drawings, raffles and auctions to be held that day will all help defray Wilkins' expenses, said LaFountain.
"I've had such an overwhelming response, I am just blown away," LaFountain said of donations toward this Sunday's event. "Everybody seems to be offering a helping hand. Now, it's just getting the people there."
Those wanting to make a donation toward the event or to the Wilkins family may do so by contacting LaFountain at 834-7797. Every little bit helps, she said.
"We're still giving him hope," LaFountain said of her brother-in-law. "We're not giving up."