For two Army Vietnam Veterans fighting cancer, living at the Houston VA Fisher House has been a game changer.
Harry Robinson Sr., 75, a door gunner in Vietnam, and Leonard Adams, 69, a heavy equipment repairman known as “Mr. Fix it”, each currently reside in Fisher House III on the campus of Houston VA Medical Center. And each man has come a long way since his initial cancer diagnosis.
“I’ve had prostate cancer for 21 years,” said Robinson, currently in stage four cancer recovery. “I’ve been treated at MD Anderson with six rounds of chemo treatment. My prognosis is looking good. All my vital signs are normal. I feel pretty good right now and have a very positive outlook.”
Adams, who hadn’t been to a VA in 41 years, said outside doctors didn’t know what was wrong with him. “That wasn’t encouraging to me because I needed help,” he said. “But there was one doctor at the Houston VA who told me, ‘Before you leave here, I’m going to get you well.’”
Adams had eight rounds of chemotherapy and 100 stem cells from 100 different people. His blisters, which covered his body less the soles of his feet, began to clear up.
“The blisters were everywhere,” he said. “All in my mouth, all in my throat. One got in my eye, which caused me to see double. I was a terrible sight to see.”
However, both men today look and sound great. And in addition to the stellar care they each have received, living at the Fisher House has put each one—and their wives—at ease. Fisher House takes the worry out of everyday living and allows the Veterans to focus on just getting better.
“We all are family here in the Fisher House,” said Robinson. “We’re all here for the same thing. I’ve been here since Feb. 20. This is it … home away from home.”
Adams, who has resided at Fisher House since Feb. 25, has so much appreciation for his time here.
“Being here brings a lot of relief and joy,” said Adams. “They make you feel like you’re in your own house. They make you feel like you are family. That’s how it makes you feel. You’re not alone in this. It just encourages us and takes our minds off this stuff that we’re afflicted with. Being here is like being at your own house.”
At one’s own home, family would be present. And that’s exactly what makes Fisher House special. Family members of Veterans can stay at no cost while a loved one receives treatment.
“As for the Veteran in the hospital, it is important for them to know we in the Fisher House will be doing everything we can for their loved ones and caregivers, to protect and give them the support they need while they are here,” said Frank Kelley, Fisher House manager. “The people in the hospital need to know their loved ones are taken care of so they can concentrate on getting better.”
While at Fisher House, family members of various Veterans form bonds and help one another. They become a support system for each other.
“You meet people from all walks,” said Carolyn Adams, wife of Leonard. “Everybody here has something going on in their lives. Fisher House makes you like family because you have no one else. We depend on each other. We’re here to help each other. We are all here fighting together for our loved ones. It’s a wonderful place. It goes beyond what they intended.”
Carolyn has been on Family Medical Leave for more than a year. She said her work will call every now and then to ask her to come back, but she refuses to leave her husband’s side.
“I don’t want you to leave me” said Adams. “Honestly speaking—I’m not ashamed to say that I don’t know what I’d do without her here.”
Todd Goodman is a public affairs specialist for the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center.