Wednesday, April 30, 2014


April 7th, 2014 is a day that Rhonda and I will never forget. It was a Sunday and I was busy getting clothes ready to head to Washington, D.C. for the National Wheat Improvement Committee/National Association of Wheat Growers Research Fly-in.

Rhonda and I were sitting on the couch in the office (we have a separate building that serves as office, man cave, dog house for the times I'm in trouble, In-law storage, visitor retreat, etc.) where I stay the night so I don't wake the family up at 2-2:30 am to catch my flight.

"Robert, could you feel my breast? I think I have a lump" Rhonda said. Now as a guy I would normally be excited and happy to oblige to such a request...but this was definitely different. My heart rate increased, I was getting sweaty, and I was nervous...similar to younger days but in a completely different way.

I felt the "LUMP."

"Rhonda, you need to get that looked at. It might be nothing but it should be checked out." The timing couldn't have been worse for either of us, we were parting at a time of need for each other.

I left for DC Monday and didn't get back home until Thursday while Rhonda visited the doctor. We were both continuing on with what we needed to do professionally, but our minds had other things on them definitely that week.

The second week, things moved fast as well. On the 15th she had an appointment for a mammogram and her friend Dianne went with her. After that visit she went back on that Thursday the 17th for a biopsy with support from Dianne and her friend Jaime. That started the long wait.

I know my blog handle is "The Unmanned Farmer" and should deal mainly with UAVs and this story does have a UAV portion to it.

Tuesday, April 22nd is another date I won't forget. I had a reporter up from the Lewiston Morning Tribune doing a story on my use of UAVs. It was raining so we couldn't actually fly which was a bummer. However, standing around in the shop with the UAVs set up and doing the interview the phone rang.

I looked at the caller ID and it was the grade school. Oh, Rhonda is calling for something............

My heart dropped and my breath was completely taken away, she was crying uncontrollably and I knew she was hurt. The frightening part was I knew why. After getting her to calm down a little she told me she had to go to the doctor that day at 2 pm and would I go? Farming, UAVs, or anything else in the world didn't matter and I was not going to let her down.

I hung up the phone and still had an interview to do. Stay professional, carry on as if nothing happened, get through this with all costs and as normally as possible.

During our reminiscing about this quick journey I would equate my reactions that day to President George W. Bush being informed of the Twin Towers being attacked. I'm sure the shocked showed initially, but you needed to get through the current job as quickly and professionally as possible to not alarm others so that you can deal with the situation.

Farmers deal with tough situations every year, especially if they raise animals. Farmers pull on their years of knowledge and experience to identify the problem, quickly analyze it, and then take a course of action. This all happens in the blink of an eye usually. I could not use my skills as a farmer to solve the problem of someone I truly love hurting over the phone. I could not reach out to provide a comforting touch or reassuring embrace. And I still had the interview to do.

That day we met with the doctor and received the news that Rhonda has Breast Cancer confirming our fears.

Since then we had a visitor from Australia who took our mind off of things for a couple of days. Simon Mattsson is a sugarcane farmer from Australia and a Nuffield Scholar. Also, our church had a service dedicated to the seniors of the high school.

Monday and Tuesday Rhonda met with two great doctors to (As Paul Harvey would say) get the rest of the story and plan a course of action.

Things have moved very fast in less than a month, even to the amazement of the doctors. Support has been great and having some answers to the unknowns has been a relief. There are still tests to be done and more unknowns, but there is HOPE! God's hand has definitely been there in many different ways but that is a different story and should and probably told by Rhonda.

Now to the Pink Tractor. As Rhonda was checking in to her first appointment Monday, I saw a young nurse in the facility with a black shirt with a pink tractor...I NEED TO GET ONE FOR RHONDA is all I could think. I called a couple of people that I know and there was one waiting for us at Farm Credit Services Northwest in Spokane .

If there is one color Rhonda loathes it is pink! However, since it is on a tractor she could handle it and wear the shirt.

Our spirits are up and our family is dealing with it well. Rhonda and I cannot say thank you enough to all of the support that has been there from friends and strangers. It truly is amazing and has turned this crisis into more of a mission of hope and determination.

I am certain that this will not be the last post I will write on this journey or subject and there are definitely better stories that can be told from this month of shock and discovery but I will leave that up to best friend, partner, soul mate, and wife Rhonda. Maybe for Mother's Day I will give her a pink tractor to drive.

As a note of recognition and thanks we want to thank Northwest Farm Credit Services for their recognition and support for Breast Cancer! Rhonda and I both hope that you and your friends will take time and be more aware of this cause.