In March 2016, at the age of 35, I was diagnosed with Stage IV stomach cancer. Only 3% of patients live 5 years or longer after receiving this diagnosis. Most die within the first year. I have a beautiful wife and two young children. This blog chronicles my experiences with cancer and the lessons I learn along the way.

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Continued decline in motor capabilities and increased paralysis

Just thought I would write a quick update on how things have progressed since we officially started hospice care.

The paralysis from my waist down is all but complete. I can wiggle my large toes a very small bit with much effort, but for the most part, my legs are completely dead weight. I can still feel touches on my legs, but with greatly reduced sensitivity.

For me, this means I have very rapidly moved from fully functioning with a slight limp about 12 days ago to completely non-functional from the waist down today. As my paralysis includes my internal organs and digestive system, I am also in the unfortunate position of now needing a catheter and diapers. It's been a fairly rapid descent, and so far I'm able to occasionally still see the humor in these events, but day-to-day life is radically different now than it was just a few days ago.

Hospice brought a great deal of medical equipment to my home to make things easier for my family and the hospice nurses as they care for me. One such piece of equipment was a Hoyer lift, which is basically a hydraulic lift with an attached hammock-like sling that allows caregivers to easily move and lift an individual who is completely or partially paralyzed. Unfortunately, the lift proved useless to me due to the rapid growth of the tumors in my psoas (large back) muscles.

In order to make use of the lift, the patient must be placed into the hammock/sling, and then connected to the arms of the lift in order to move them from one place to the other. Unfortunately for me, this means someone (or several individuals) must lift me from my chair and place me on the hammock. When we attempted to do this with the assistance of the hospice nurse, the stretching of my tumor-ridden back muscles in the process took me to a level 10 pain state for at least 15 minutes - and this was after being pre-medicated with an unusually high dose of several different narcotic pain killers prior to the attempted move.

So, for now, I remain in my recliner within a fairly narrow range of acceptable angles that are tolerable to my back muscles. This makes caring for my needs much more difficult for my family, since processes that require moving me must be done very carefully to avoid the excruciating pain that comes when my back or abdominal muscles are stretched. It also means that all of this movement must be done manually, since the hydraulic assistance is unable to be used. Truly, the efforts that my wife and parents are exerting to care for me are nothing short of heroic.

Our bedtime family photo

Although I can't really leave my chair or my room anymore, I relish the time I get to spend with my children, my beautiful wife, and my parents, who are also here helping with my care. I continue to notice significant declines in my upper extremity strength and dexterity. I have lost even the strength required to lift my hands all the way above my head, so I expect that the tumors are quickly working through my spine and will eventually paralyze something more important. For me, this will be a blessing, as my quality of life has dropped so quickly and so dramatically. I am confident of my eternal destination, and am excited to meet my Savior.

Today, as we celebrated the resurrection of Jesus on this Easter Sunday, I had the privilege of spending the morning with one of my oldest friends and mentors who came to stay with me while my family attended church. He was kind enough to change his family's Easter plans to be here in Dallas rather than at home in Nashville so he could see me once more. It was a sweet time of remembering old memories together, reflecting on the Easter story from the Gospel of Luke, and reading through Paul's exhortations about the central importance of the resurrection to the Christian faith from 1 Corinthians 15. There really have been so many wonderful moments of joy over the past week as I've been able to talk with good friends from various stages of my life.

As you pray, please remember these requests:

  • Strength, peace, and endurance for Melissa and my parents as they care for me
  • For a merciful transition and no prolonged suffering in these final days
  • For my children, as they process the loss of a parent
  • For the ability to continue to experience true joy in spite of life's circumstances

Reader Comments (45)

Sending prayers on this Easter and always.

April 16, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterBritni VanBlommestein

Dear Melissa and Robert:

Continued prayers for you and your family from us!

We appreciate the updates and just pray that God brings you peace and comfort in the coming days.

The Davis Family

April 16, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterCatherine Davis

I appreciate your transparent updates Rob. I have read from the beginning and prayed for you through the year. I will continue to pray for you and your beautiful family. Much love to you all! Happy Easter!

April 16, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterLori Konopasek

To everyone.
As hard as this is Rob, I am to praying for a how do I even say this-
Any easy transition for you to the loving arms of our Heavenly Father.
Also praying for strength for Melissa and your Mom and Dad. You have touch so many and
Will be leaving so many wonderful memories for your friends to share with your beautiful children.
Love to you all, Aunt Kathie and Uncle Denny

April 16, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterAunt Kathie

Dr. Yale,

I was a student of yours maybe 2 years back now. Just wanted to say how much you impacted my life and my overall ambition to get out in this world and work towards something I'm passionate about. Love you, I'll pray for you now and promise me when you are on the other side you intercede for me BIG TIME... I'm gonna need it :). God bless Dr. Yale

April 16, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJosh Angrisano

What an inspiration, your bravery in the face of this adversity is admirable to say the least. Thank you for sharing your strength and light.

April 16, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterKeisha


April 16, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterStephie Kreuder-Crowell

I am praying for you and your beautiful family.

April 16, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterM Nelson

Prayers continue from your Mississippi family. Please know what an impact you have made on so many people! Your love for your family and the knowledge you have shared with so many people will always be remembered. I heard it spoken yesterday that you are such a well respected professor at UD. The exact words might have been the best teacher at UD. Thanks for showing me how to live with such adversities! May God bring you comfort and peace and may Mary wrap you and your family in her caring arms.

April 16, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterValeria Johnson

We continue to pray, and we will always keep your family in our prayers. Reading this blog has been both one of the saddest and most inspiring experiences for so many of us. May your spirit, tenacity, and love never be forgotten. <3

April 16, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterMegan Kenny Feister

My dear Robert,
I think of you and your family and say a prayer daily. I form tears each time I read your postings. Your courage, your sharing...Please know we are praying daily for relief of pain and for comfort.

April 16, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterCarole

As I sit here nauseous from my most recent chemo treatment tears run down my face and I feel blessed and a bit ashamed of the little bit of grumbling I have participated in this evening. Thank you for your faithfulness and testimony of God's love. I have only recently learned of you and your sweet family. (Through Caren Sue) I pray for you and your family. Blessings to you all.

April 16, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterBev

Dear Uncle Rob,

I know we dont talk much at all but i just wanted to say im praying for you and hope you dont have any more pain. It hurts to think I won't be able to see you again. I cant wait till we meet up in heaven and are able to talk again. I will miss you forever.

Love you,

April 16, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterEli Seward

Be sure you will have many jewels in your crown! You have touched so many lives with your testimony! Because of your strength in your weakness I have become stronger. I pray God will grant you comfort from pain and your family strength to let you go! I will meet you on the other side and it will be a blessed time. God speed!

April 16, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterKaren Perrine

You and your family continue to be in my prayers!!!

April 16, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterGraceofadoption

I only had you for two classes at UD (poor decision on my part; it should've been more) but the impact you've had on not just my education, but my confidence in myself is overwhelming. You've helped me see what I'm capable of and what I can do when I put my mind to it, which was more than I ever expected. I mean that. If you've done that for just me, Lord knows the hundreds/more who have been shaped by your hilarious teaching and honest inspiration. I just wanted to thank you from the bottom of my heart for everything. You and your sweet family are in my prayers.
Hunter J
P.S. The day you said I won one of the steak dinners in your biz comm class was one of the best surprises of my life. It meant a whole lot that you saw something in me.

April 16, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterHunter J

Dr. Yale,

I was so fortunate to be able to be one of your students in bus com a couple years ago.

I was a shy freshman, and you helped me gain so much confidence in myself. Thank you for this!

Your dedication to teaching and passion for life inspired me then.

The amazing way you have handled this suffering has inspired me even more today. Thank you for your truly Christian example.

You definitely will live on in so many of the students whose lives you've touched.


April 16, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterStudent


We just missed each other at Cedarville but as a fellow forensics nerd your reputation stayed after your graduation. :) Thank you for sharing your story and life with so many.

I'm praying this song over you tonight:


With prayers,

Aimee (Auclair) Hill

April 16, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterAimee Hill

So sorry to hear this, Robert, but you inspire even as your body declines! Please know I continue to pray for you and your family! "Be thou faithful unto death, and thou shalt receive a crown of life." May God bless your richly, both on earth and soon in heaven!

April 16, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterDavid Meyer

Hi Rob!

My dad just sent me a link to your blog, and I've seen it from time to time but it's been a few months so I got all of the really bad updates at once, but I'm emotionally conflicted. It's such a joy to read your writing, see your family and see that you're handling this so much better than I ever could - and yet, I'm devastated for my friend. Even though it's been 16 years since I've seen you or talked with you, I don't think that really matters. I've always held you in high regard.

As I was going through the last few months of your blog I ran across a line that made me bust up laughing (despite the tears): "From a very young age there was nothing more exhilarating for me than knowing something that someone else didn't, and getting to tell them about that thing I knew."

That right there is the Rob I remember, know, admired and loved. Your eyes always light up the entire area when you're teaching, and you have that talent that can teach and share knowledge without making somebody feel like an idiot (unless you want them to) - you have a rare gift and have impacted so many (including me).

I always think of you and wonder what you're up to anytime I watch the Princess Bride and will always remember your passionate reciting of the script it in it's entirety from the back of the church van -- I don't even remember where we went - only that I jammed/broke a finger playing football, and that the grass was very bright green (now that I'm in Arizona, the idea of green grass is becoming slightly foreign).

You are a strong man, and I'm so happy to see how great you ended up but am heartbroken to hear how it's turning out for you. I love your confidence in your final destination and I hope to see you there someday. Hugs, love, and all my prayers to you and your family.

Always & Forever,


April 16, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterErica Moreau

Rob, we are praying for you! Thank you for sharing your updates, so we can pray specifically for you and your family! Your parents are amazing people...we sit in front of them at church, and love seeing them weekly, along with your lovely grandma! You have been very inspiring to us! May the Lord comfort you and your family, giving you a peace and joy only He can give through this difficult time!

April 17, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJulia and Brad Bytnar


We competed at a 2003 NCCFI. You beat me in CA. You were gracious and talented competitor. I so admire the grace with which you have written your blog. I have an eight-month-old and the idea of knowing that I would have to leave her and my husband makes me so sad. I am praying for your wife and children.


April 17, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterCLS Ferguson

When some one passes, the family sits close by and mourns. But they would not have if they realized how much closer God sits with the person and holds his hand. God surely has other plans for you my brother. And those are definitely worth celebrating. I will pray to Allah for you till your final moments on this world. Love you.

April 17, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterRaihan

Your prayer requests are what we pray for. I believe God's promise that He gives us the grace He promises when we need it to go through any difficulty that we face & this is the most difficult & God has shown His grace to you. We hear it in your words. We do pray for no lasting pain for you, peace, strenghth, endurance & rest for your wife & parents, the kids as they go through this & not understanding it. We pray they see Jesus more clearly. God will give them grace too. I can't wait to meet you one day. I can't wait to see God's plan continue to unfold. Please know you & your family are constantly loved & lifted up in prayer. We will continue to pray for your family. Words can't express how we feel but thank you for sharing all your days with us even when we can tell it was very difficult. May God shine brightly in your home in the coming days. Wish I could come give you all a big hug & help you.

Dear Jesus, we know you love this family more than any of us. We ask for your merciful hand to be on this beautiful family in the coming days, wrap your loving arms around all of them & let them know you are with them. May the children see you & follow you all their days. Thank you for what you will do. In Jesus Holy name Amen.

We love you all so much & will not stop praying for you.

April 17, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterRoseann Faust

Dear Melissa and Robert:

Continued prayers for you and your family from us!

We appreciate the updates and just pray that God brings you peace and comfort in the coming days.

The Davis Family

April 17, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterCatherine Davis

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