Bob Farmer
Bob Farmer with his wife, Carol.

Life after cancer

This past January Bob Farmer went skiing. Last summer he climbed a 14,000-foot peak in Colorado. Considering I started at 11,000 feet, that may not seem like such a big deal, but it sure was to me, he says.

If you'd been through the past five years of Farmers life, you'd think it was a big deal, too. The 58-year-old Group Health patient has successfully undergone treatment for chronic myeloid leukemia a condition for which treatment can seem as bad as the disease.

Farmer underwent a bone marrow transplant. That's an arduous procedure in which the patients bone marrow is removed and replaced with cancer-free marrow from a matching donor in his case, his brother John.

Afterward, he was treated with drugs to suppress his immune system so that his body would not reject the transplant. This painful drug therapy exposes the patient to sickness from other infections.

The drugs keep the transplant from killing you. And hopefully, nothing else kills you meanwhile, Farmer explains. Colds and flu are the major dangers; managing exposure to other peoples germs is crucial. At one point pneumonia sent Farmer back to the hospital for a week.

It wasn't until the spring of 1996, three years after his leukemia was discovered, that he was able to resume a somewhat normal life. For Farmer, that includes skiing, mountain hiking, and hang gliding. It also includes, more recently, a return to part-time work with computer systems at Olympic College in Bremerton.

Oh, and one more thing cancer activism. Farmer has created a Web site at

People who are proactive in their recovery do better. I want to show people you can beat this disease.

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