Accidentally spilling coffee on a woman at a church dinner changed Bob Honse's life – and probably saved it. Thanks to the coffee-soaked woman who later became his wife and the care he received from the urology team at The University of Kansas Health System, Bob is now a two-year prostate cancer survivor.
Retired as CEO of Farmland Industries, Bob had changed careers, studied ministry and become an ordained deacon on staff at St. Margaret’s Episcopal Church in Lawrence, Kan. One day, when he was helping serve a meal to honor church volunteers, he missed the coffee cup he was trying to refill and slopped hot coffee on Emily Sinnard. Flustered and embarrassed, he apologized and said he’d have to buy her a cup of coffee sometime. Unfazed, she smiled and said she’d like that. “I can’t think of a worse pickup line than pouring coffee on someone!" he laughed.
It took Bob 3 months to work up the courage to follow through on that cup of coffee. But when he finally did, he and Emily talked for hours, finding much in common. He was widowed; she was long divorced. In no time, they had a standing dinner date each night before she went to work as a nursing supervisor. They shared so many meals, in fact, they both gained substantial weight that first year.
Fast forward to 2007, when they married, combining their families of 5 children and 5 grandchildren. Both reveled in a second chance at love, but Emily soon realized Bob was experiencing symptoms that could mean a prostate problem.
First he denied it. Then he downplayed the issue. Looking back, he admits that if his bride and one of his daughters hadn’t relentlessly pushed him to see his physician, continue to follow up, and ultimately find a specialist, he might well have ignored his symptoms until it was too late.
Frightening diagnosis, encouraging prognosis
During those first months of marriage, Emily told everyone her new husband was 1 in a million. But as it turned out, he was 1 in 6. That’s the number of men who’ll be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime. Bob’s cancer was fast-growing and aggressive, rating 9 on the 10-point Gleason Scale used to stage prostate cancer.
“I thought I was gone,” he recalled. “I lost my first wife to cancer, so my attitude was pretty fatalistic in the beginning. But I quickly found out I knew a whole lot of guys who’d survived prostate cancer.” The Honses knew he should seek treatment at The University of Kansas Health System – an institution he’s well familiar with as chair of the hospital board.