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40 years

You’ve got a friend in me: Bob’s journey through Palliative Care

Photo submitted to Times Observer Bob Priest and his wife, Debbie.

Over five Saturdays, the Times Observer is presenting Hospice of Warren County from its own perspective in honor of its 40th anniversary.

Bob Priest is a busy, hardworking man but what makes him unique is his strength. Raised in Warren County, he has been a band member of several local bands for over 40 years (mostly as the drummer). He is known for having managed sound for the Chautauqua Belle, Thunder in the Valley, and Flood Fest in Johnstown, PA as well as Struthers Library Theater. For the past eight years, he has been the facility manager at Struthers Library Theater where he is also responsible for booking bands, renting and setting up equipment, and performing maintenance as well as cleaning. He also owned his own construction company for several years.

Bob was planning a once in a lifetime trip with his wife to Las Vegas when he noticed a lump on the side of his neck. He checked with his primary care doctor who said, “You need to get it checked, it might be cancer.” Bob’s reply was, “I am going to Las Vegas”… and he did. Within days, the lump increased in size and he started having trouble swallowing. It was indeed cancer- tonsillar cancer to be exact. Life became a whirlwind of medical appointments, tests, procedures, and insurance concerns once the diagnosis was confirmed.

Bob admits that he didn’t know anything about palliative care when his doctor at the cancer center recommended it for him. Then he met with Melissa Shene, Palliative Care CRNP (Certified Registered Nurse Practitioner), who explained palliative care to him.

He went on to say, “She told me that she would help me with any symptoms that arose during my treatments…and she did. Missy explained everything to me. It made things so much easier. I knew I needed the help and I am so glad that I accepted it. From help with nutritional support, to helping with pain issues, to loaning me the necessary medical equipment that I needed, palliative care was such a big help to me when I needed it most.”

“At no point did I ever give up. I never even thought of giving up. She made me feel like she was just helping me through a rough time until I got better,” Bob explains.

Bob’s advice to others when faced with a serious illness is, “Don’t turn down the help! There is no down side to it.” Bob saw Melissa in the community recently and said, “She gave me a big hug and asked how I was doing. It’s just like we are old friends.”

Bob has long since been discharged from palliative care and is doing well. He is currently undergoing therapy to help stimulate his salivary glands due to dry mouth from radiation.

Bob and his wife are planning a return trip to Las Vegas in the fall!

Palliative care is a supportive service aimed at relieving symptoms and providing practical support, given at any time during a serious illness. There does not need to be a terminal diagnosis to be a candidate for palliative care, only a serious illness. If you or someone you know is facing such a diagnosis, give Hospice of Warren County a call to discuss palliative care services. We are here as an extra layer of support during these difficult times.

Linda Chase, RN/CHPN, Patient Care Coordinator

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