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Photographer Views Cancer Diagnosis Through Unique Lens
Apr 20, 2016

Photographer Views Cancer Diagnosis Through Unique Lens

When Bob Petit gazes through his camera lens, he sees wonder and beauty. Calling himself a “serious amateur,” his love of photography has grown over the years. Yet, not even with the clearest of lenses, could Bob have seen his cancer diagnosis coming.

“I had a feeling something was wrong, because I was sleeping 14 hours a day,” Bob says. “But I didn’t think about cancer.”

After many exams, tests and surgeries to treat other medical conditions, including seizures and kidney stones, Bob was diagnosed with diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL), the most common type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma diagnosed in the United States. While it’s a fast-growing lymphoma, it often responds well to treatment.

Bob reacted to his diagnosis of non-Hodgkin lymphoma the way he handles most things in his life: He’s taking it in stride.

“Honestly, I feel positive about it,” he says, knowing his response might not be typical coming from those in his situation. But Bob is also a man who retired in 2004 after 37 years in the medical field, shaved his head, put his watch away, donned a pair of jeans and refused to take life too seriously.

“You’ve got three choices. You can let it get the best of you. You can say, ‘OK, I’m just going to watch and wait to see where this new trip takes me.’ Or you can focus on the positive of the situation. I prefer to be on the positive side.”

Bob credits the tremendous support he receives from his family and friends for helping him maintain a positive outlook. That’s not to say cancer has been easy. When Bob started chemotherapy, the medications took a toll on him, not just physically, but mentally.

“I’m a multitasker, and suddenly I couldn’t multitask because of the medication. That was difficult,” he says.

After his medication was adjusted, Bob’s side effects eased, and he inquired about a phase II clinical trial at WVCI that is testing a combination of drugs to treat DLBCL; he recently completed the trial and is doing well.

Having worked in the medical field for nearly four decades, working his way up from hospital orderly to administrator, Bob appreciates good doctors and nurses, and says Dr. Jeff Sharman and his team at WVCI are tops in his book.

“They’ve been fantastic. Dr. Sharman is so easy going, but he knows his stuff. And the research nurses and the nurses in the chemo room have taken great care of me. They’ve been a tremendous support group,” Bob says.

Since retiring, Bob spends a lot of time focused on his photography. It’s a challenge and an escape all in one, he says.

His lens allows him to capture the beauty of life all around him: a perfect sunset, eagles taking flight and landscapes that simply take your breath away. It reminds him that life is good, despite the difficulties that come along.

“There’s a rhythm to life, just like in photography. Cancer disrupted that for a while, but I’m finally getting my rhythm back.”

Bob Petit

Bob Petit photographing nature

Neptune State Scenic Viewpoint

Neptune State Scenic Viewpoint

Yellow-rumped Warbler near the Willamette River

Yellow-rumped Warbler near the Willamette River