SHERBURN - It started when Bob Mulso mentioned he was having some trouble swallowing during his annual check-up in 2009. Since then, Bob has taken on and beaten esophageal cancer twice, and is the honorary survivor for the Relay for Life Saturday at the Martin County Fairgrounds.
Not taking any chances, Mulso was scheduled for testing and an Upper GI Endoscopy revealed a mass the doctors determined was cancerous after a biopsy.
"Those few words would change our lives forever," Mulso reflected.
Lynne and Bob Mulso
"He had a rough go of it at the beginning," his wife Lynne said, "If something were to go wrong, it happened to him."
Two rounds of chemotherapy and five and a half weeks of radiation were scheduled up in Mankato.
"That was that awful winter," Lynne recalled, which added to the stress of the situation.
However, it was small town love that helped them keep going.
"Each time we had to go, someone had shoveled our driveway for us," Lynne said. "No one would claim it, so we didn't know who was doing it but we learned several people were taking turns."
After chemo and radiation killed the cancerous mass, Mulso underwent the surgery that removed the mass, along with two-thirds of his esophagus and a third of his stomach. Mulso had to change his eating habits, as the tube put in to replace what was taken out went directly into his intestines.
"I graze rather than having a big meal," Mulso said. "Anything dry like lettuce doesn't work, and I can't have anything that's overcooked Gravy has become my favorite helpful food."
"We're also eating healthier too," Lynne said.
But three years later, cancer reared its ugly head again,
"Almost three years to the day of his first diagnosis," Lynne said.
"It was a check-up in November 2012, and they found two new spots on the lungs," Mulso said. "The biopsy showed the esophageal cancer had returned. So we were back to chemo every two weeks and then there was a week in the hospital."
With Mulso's second battle, there were more drug treatments available.
"Those drugs aren't selective to just cancer cells," he said. "They kill everything. I lost 40 pounds."
Despite the struggles and side effects, the Mulsos know they are very fortunate.
"They told us at the beginning that there was a 30-percent chance of him being alive in three years," Lynne said. "And that if it comes back, it's usually with a vengeance."
"The doctors have been on top of it right away," Mulso added. "It's a journey; we take it a day at a time and are grateful for everything we have."
During Mulso's last check-up in June, it showed there was no cancer growth.
"We've had an awesome experience with the doctors at the infusion center in Fairmont," Lynne said. "We've also received support from our small community. So many people willing to just jump in and help."
One of the toughest moments for Mulso was his first appearance at the Martin County Relay for Life.
"We've participated for the last three years," he said. "That first time walking across the stage and saying what I had was one of the toughest things I'd ever done."
"You're seeing people who are just starting their battle to those who have battled for years," Lynne said. "You can't explain the feeling you get seeing that."
Mulso will be speaking at a special program during the Relay for Life at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the Martin County Fairgrounds, with the event lasting from 3 p.m. to 12:30 a.m.