Faith, Motivation and Gratitude – Bobby Paul’s Story
February 4, 2020, was a typical day in the Paul household. Bobby and his wife Heather were folding laundry when he received a call from Najam Ud Din, MD, a local oncologist/hematologist, regarding the Bone Marrow biopsy he recently had at the suggestion of his primary care doctor. It did not look good.
“Dr. Din told me there was a room waiting for me at St. Luke’s, that I had leukemia and that I needed to go there right away,” he said. “We called family to let them know and pretty soon I had an entire caravan of support following me to the hospital.”
As difficult as it was for Bobby and his family to face the reality of cancer, he feels he was diagnosed just in time.
“I arrived at the hospital and my platelets were down to 19,” he shared. “On the second day I lost vision in my left eye and they checked to see if I had a stroke. I didn’t, thank goodness, but my white blood cell count was high – there was 95 percent cancer in my blood. Dr. Din reassured me the entire time and explained that we were going to do treatments – that they could be done at St. Luke’s, close to home and that I was going to get better. It meant a lot.”
Bobby, who says he has a great deal of faith turned to prayer during his time at MVHS and he wasn’t alone in doing so. “Father Paul from my church, Annunciation in Ilion, was by my side during all of this. My family prayed with me too. I’ll never forget that one day, when I was having a particularly difficult time, there was a phlebotomist at the hospital and she asked if she could join my family and I in prayer – it meant the world to me. After that day things started to turn around and I started my journey toward recovery.”
Bobby says that everyone he encountered at MVHS was amazing and calming. “I formed this incredible bond with the staff on the 6th floor,” he said. “The nurses were always there for me and for my whole family. They were so good to my wife, who was caring for our daughter and to my dad, who stayed with me.”
He admits the hardest part of his experience was being away from his daughter. “Lia is five and I couldn’t speak to her the first week because I couldn’t talk without crying and I didn’t want to scare her,” he said. “When I was able to emotionally talk to her via Facetime I was able to hold it together and I just told her ‘Daddy’s fine.’ Talking with her motivated me and I remember thinking to myself ‘let’s go.’”
This motivation proved to be even more critical as COVID-19 came into the picture. “Toward the end of my treatment I couldn’t have any family or visitors,” Bobby shared. “I really leaned on the staff – they became family to me. The team on the Sixth Floor knew I was very anxious about everything and they even put a sign on my door that said ‘worry-free zone’ and made sure that I knew they were doing all the worrying for me and that my job was just to get better and go home to my family.”
Going above and beyond was common practice by the staff. “I turned 41 while I was in the hospital and the staff celebrated by getting me a cake, balloons and presents,” he said. “What a testament to this amazing team.”
The staff’s kindness coupled with Bobby’s great attitude and mental toughness served him well during his two-month hospital stay. “In March, Dr. Din came into my room and said ‘you are not going to believe this, but you are in remission,’” he said. “He told me it was really rare for that to happen.”
Bobby credits an amazing support system for his recovery. “I’m so lucky. My family, my church, my community – everyone was just so wonderful,” he noted. “My employer, Herkimer County Community College, even had employees donate time off so I didn’t lose my income – it was just amazing and I am filled with gratitude for everyone who helped.”
Once discharged as an inpatient, Bobby quickly became an outpatient and started visiting the MVHS Cancer Center at the Faxton Campus for infusion treatments, which he recently finished. “Once again I had an amazing team caring for me. I was so fortunate.”
Bobby says his experience at MVHS inspired him. “I decided I wanted to turn my diagnosis into a positive. It’s really easy to lose perspective and I wanted to find a way to say thank you and give back and help the doctors, nurses and staff who cared for me and my family.”
He says one thing that made a big difference during his stay was having a tablet so he could talk to family and friends. Now that he is done with treatment he has started a fundraiser for MVHS and his church to express his gratitude and pay it forward to those who helped him. He hopes to purchase at least one tablet for the hospital, maybe more. Now through Monday, November 23, 2020, Bobby is raffling off a snowblower, donated by Collis True Value Hardware in Herkimer, along with other prizes, to those who make a donation to the Sixth Floor Oncology Unit at MVHS.
“I want to help the amazing staff and I want to make sure other patients are able to see their loved ones like I did,” he said. “The more support they have the better, especially right now with COVID. The nurses at MVHS are going to work every day – it’s a scary time and I want to help make their job easier and I want their patients to be able to have the support of their family and friends regardless of whether they can have visitors or not. This experience changed my life and the staff at MVHS inspired me. I’m grateful to be alive and to inspire others – that to me is an incredible gift.”
To make a donation in Bobby’s honor and be included in his fundraising effort, click HERE. You can help support oncology patients and staff at the St. Luke’s Campus at MVHS, by selecting 6th Floor Oncology from the dropdown menu.