CHARLOTTE, N.C. (QUEEN CITY NEWS) – In a medical building, up on the third floor, folks are often at a loss for words.
“We’re trying to make more awareness,” explained Bob Lane, a volunteer who takes empathy to another level.
“Talking to a stranger, I think, is a lot easier for a lot of men,” he said. “It’s an open door for them that they didn’t realize was even available.”
Two days a week, he pulls up a chair in the elevator lobby outside Urology Specialists of the Carolinas, knowing that someone dies of that type of cancer every 15 minutes.
According to the nonprofit ZERO Prostate Cancer, nearly 35 thousand are expected to die of the disease this year. One in eight men will be diagnosed with it in their lifetime.
“He just sits out there and waits for people to come by and say, ‘Hi Bob,’” said nurse director Tracy Peck.
“I can see it in patients’ eyes,” Lane said, describing the raw emotion of someone just diagnosed. “I can see it in their spouse’s eyes; I can see it a lot of times because it’s not the patient doing the talking. It’s their spouse, their loved one, doing the talking. I’m getting emotional thinking about it.”
Jeffrey Wilde first sat down with him a few months ago.
“Jeffrey, good to see you,” Lane said.
“Good to see you as well,” Wilde replied.
For patients at the Advanced Prostate Cancer Clinic, the diagnosis is overwhelming.
“It’s not a death sentence, it’s not going to be what takes you out,” Lane told Wilde.
“It’s a ton of bricks to hear,” said Lane. “Having been on the receiving end, I know that.”
As he speaks to people, Lane doesn’t sugarcoat the situation.
“The number two cancer killer in the country, far surpassing anything else, is prostate cancer,” he said.
“I did not know that,” said Wilde.
“Nobody knows that!” Lane added.
The chats assure Wilde that he’s not alone.
“I was sitting and holding my 18-month-old baby at 6 o’clock in the morning when the doctor called me,” he remembered. “I was diagnosed about five years ago and have been cancer-free ever since.”
“I think it’s great that you’re NOT dealing with prostate cancer right now,” said Lane. “That’s A-1,” he says, high-fiving Wilde in the lobby.
Doctors told Bob he had prostate cancer two years ago for the second time.
“Did you feel somewhat deflated then?” Wilde wondered.
“No, I felt A LOT deflated,” Lane answered. “I go like, ‘Uh-oh, it’s back and this is a problem.’”
Many tears later, after radiation therapy, he’s cancer-free.
“If you’re ever going to get it, this is the time in history to get it,” he said to Wilde. “Because of so many new developments, so many new treatments.”
At a tender time, nurse director Peck sends patients to him.
“I mention to them, ‘Hey, a friend of mine, my buddy Bob, is out by the elevators, and he’s willing to share his journey,’” she said.
“People go home, and they don’t want to talk about it, maybe with family or even friends,” Peck said. “But the fact that he’s sort of a stranger out there willing to talk about his journey.”
What he communicates is sometimes unspoken.
“As you can see, I’m an open book about letting the tears flow down,” Lane said, wiping away tears.
“The impact that you must be having on men and being a warrior for them, I can’t tell you how much that means,” Wilde said to Lane.
“It made me pause and think about what I could do,” said Wilde, who wants to help keep the dialogue going by sharing his experience.
“And maybe get you involved,” Bob said. “I think you would be a great person to have on the team.”
“Absolutely, I would love to be part of it,” Wilde said.
Every interaction builds community. Maybe that third floor is a chance to get in on the ground floor of an important conversation.
“It’s a great sense of hope,” Nurse Peck said. “Somebody who’s walked the walk, who’s been in their place before.”
“Thank you for inspiring,” Wilde told Lane. “I get a lot out of helping people and being here.”