Bob Jean, Colon Cancer
"At Sylvester, my experience has been that people really, really care."
Dreams Become Reality With Second Chance At Life
What would you do if you were told you had two weeks to live?
That was the prognosis Henry-Robert Jean faced in February 2006 after driving himself to the hospital one night in excruciating pain. When Bob arrived at the emergency room at Jackson South Community Hospital, the ER doctor rushed him into surgery and told him he was lucky he went in; if he would have waited, his intestine could have burst.
Despite proper nutrition and an active lifestyle, Bob had a history of minor gastrointestinal problems. This time, however, was serious. Tests had revealed a 4-cm cancerous tumor in his colon.
A post-operative pathology report confirmed Bob had the two most invasive types of gastric cancer. Five out of the seven lymph nodes examined were positive, and the cancer was metastasizing.
The attending physician told him to prepare for the end, but Bob had other plans. He told him, “I appreciate your opinion as a medical doctor, but unless you spoke to God last night and he told you that, I have news for you. Not only am I going to survive, but I’m going to come back and show you.”
A friend recommended that Bob see Caio Max S. Rocha Lima, M.D., professor of clinical medicine at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine and co-leader of the Colorectal Cancer Site Disease Group at Sylvester.
Under the care of Dr. Rocha Lima and then-fellow Dr. Gilberto Lopez, Bob began a comprehensive post-operative treatment plan, which included 12 rounds of chemotherapy.
He was in the hospital for three months and lost 50 lbs. The overwhelming outpouring of love and support he received helped him stay focused on getting well. Friends visited him daily, and at the urging of Father James Fetscher, former pastor of St. Louis Catholic Church in Pinecrest, the entire church prayed for his recovery.
“This is truly a life-changing experience. You cannot go through something like this and remain the same person,” he says.
After receiving the diagnosis of colon cancer, Bob made himself a promise: if he survived, he would go to college and make something of his life.
“I don’t know how long I have, but all I know is I want to make every moment count,” Bob says. “I feel like I don’t have a minute to waste.”
It would have been easy to give up, but he has never been that type of person. A first-generation Haitian-American, Bob grew up partly in Montreal and became the first of nine siblings to go to graduate school.
While he was still undergoing chemotherapy and hooked up to a colostomy bag, he started taking classes toward his bachelor’s degree in information technology at Barry University. In 2010, he graduated with an MBA in leadership and in project management, and he recently opened his own IT & organizational change consulting firm.
Bob credits his faith, friends, and care team for sustaining him.
“At Sylvester, my experience has been that people really, really care. Everyone showed me the care and love that is needed in order for people to be well.”
One of the many friends who visited him in the hospital, Salvatore E. Di Fede, brought him a true treasure: a rosary from Pope John Paul II. That cherished gift helped Bob get through difficult days; many times he prayed the rosary as a way of coping with the pain and treatment, rather than taking pain medication.
Now based in Arlington, Virginia, Bob recently started working as a consultant for a nationwide firm. He gets regular health check-ups. Thankfully, follow-up CT scans and MRIs have shown that he remains cancer-free.
“I was told I am dying in two weeks, and it is because of the care I received at Sylvester why I am here today.”
Bob is grateful for the generosity and support of friends, including Gene Fleming, Lourdes Bujan, Nancy McKay, Tere Calcines, Karen Muni, Philomena Doliny, Yadly St-Fort, and Dominique Parlapiono.