Cancer hit Bob Hendrickson like a rogue wave at age 37. The Coast Guard officer turned to an online support group using the screen name SpongeBob—and came away with some life-changing personal connections.
Read the full transcript »

[Music Playing] Bob Hendrickson: On a bridge this is Commander Hendrickson I have the con. Male Speaker: Bob Hendrickson is accustomed to rough waters both professionally and personally. After working his way up from Boot Camp to commanding his own Coast Guard ship, Bob thought his life was on course. But then at age 37 he was diagnosed with Colon Cancer. Bob Hendrickson: I had surgery and couple of days after surgery I was served with divorce papers there at the hospital. Not a good year. Male Speaker: Now suddenly single with no family around Bob felt very much alone as he underwent chemotherapy. Watching TV one day he came across an ad for the Cancer Survivors Network. Bob Hendrickson: I went online and I was amazed, the number of people that were out there that were willing to talk about it because Colon Cancer is not something that is party talk. Male Speaker: Thanks to the support group, Bob began to feel less lonely and soon found others who like him. Saw humor as a way to cope. Bob Hendrickson: I have dealt with my situation with humor because you know what they say, if what doesn't kill you makes you strong, and I certainly believe that humor is the best medicine if you can laugh at something it's not going to kill you. Male Speaker: Bob's constant jokes made him a popular member of the group where he was known by his scream name Sponge Bob. His sense of humor would eventually get the attention of Katie Rolls. Like Bob, Katie had been diagnosed with Colon Cancer, and like bob she turned to the Cancer Survivors Network seeking support. Katie Rolls: It was a very warm and welcoming and very upbeat group. Male Speaker: As she was preparing for chemo Katie posted a question, and soon started getting responses. Katie Rolls: The first one I got back was from a guy by the name of Sponge Bob and there was quite a bit of humor and it was very uplifting. We seemed to be real spark of a connection there. Male Speaker: Bob helped Katie through the most difficult times in her treatment. Bob Hendrickson: I want you to know that you will be in my thoughts today and I am sending you lots of good vibes. Be well, be strong, and know that people care about you, you are healthy. Katie Rolls: Thanks for your very sweet e-mail too, and thanks for being my biggest Confidant, advisor, and new best friend. Male Speaker: Soon Katie became more than an online acquaintance. Bob Hendrickson: We started talking a lot more and our discussions led not just to talking about cancer but to talking about other things and discovering each other. Katie Rolls: We decided after extensive emailing and incredible phone bills that we needed to see if this was a real connection that we thought was blossoming. Male Speaker: Katie flew across the county from her home in California to Washington DC to meet Sponge Bob face-to-face. Katie Rolls: Seeing him in person was a new experience, just it felt right, almost like seeing an old friend that you haven't seen for a long time. We gave each other a hug in the airport and it just felt natural. That was exactly where I was supposed to be. Bob Hendrickson: I am pretty sure I proposed to her shortly after she gotten to Washington because it just felt so natural and so right. Male Speaker: Seven months later they were married. Katie Rolls: I just feel like he was a God-son to me and it's only because of cancer that I met him, if I didn't have cancer I never would have met the love of my life. Male Speaker: Every year Bob and Katie get together with the rest of the support group, it's a celebration of life they call Colon Palooza Bob Hendrickson: It's definitely a Palooza, a good time. Lot of booty jokes, a lot of booty shaking. Male Speaker: And a testament to the importance of support, laughter and love in helping weather life's storms. Bob Hendrickson: There are people out there who are more than willing to help you, who are there to support you, if not your family, if not your friends then you need to find your family

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement