A Unique Love Leads to a Unique Gift

Bob and Sandra KellerSandy Keller and her husband Bob had a beautifully unique love story. Bob had served as a Catholic priest for 38 years, and after a long and wonderful friendship they decided to marry in 2012. For 22 years while he was a priest, he served as a chaplain in the Air Force, making the rank of colonel.

Sadly, Sandy and Bob were only husband and wife for two years when Bob was diagnosed with a tumor deep in a region of the brain called the thalamus. He underwent a new type of procedure—an ablation rather than a typical craniotomy. He then started radiation and other treatments. He was seven treatments short of finishing when he had a bad reaction and was unable to start the physical therapy that would have helped him recover faster. Bob fought valiantly and bravely, but tragically passed away in 2016 after just three and a half years of marriage to Sandy.

Despite this devastating loss, Sandy was grateful for the care Bob received at Henry Ford Health System. Before he died, Bob shared one of his biggest hopes with Sandy: that she would continue to fight to create a better future for other brain cancer patients.

“Bob told me to use any resources we have to try and help this cause. To push for treatments and research for brain tumors, so that other people and their families don’t have to go through this,” says Sandy.

Sandy took Bob’s request to heart, and she immediately got involved first with the Neuroscience Council of Advisors and then expanded her volunteer role by joining Henry Ford’s Patient and Family Advisory Council (PFAC). Both have provided opportunities to share her thoughts and experiences with cancer and treatment to benefit patient care. Through her involvement with PFAC, she contributed input on the new Brigitte Harris Cancer Pavilion, which is scheduled to open to patients in January 2021. Sandy also donated four pieces of art, which depict a diverse and beautiful set of stones resting in water, to adorn its walls in honor of Bob.

“My husband was a distinguished man, but he was also in touch with the environment,” explains Sandy. “He was his own person, and he believed that uniqueness was a gift from God. When I looked at those rocks, I saw one was vivid, one was small, one blended in, one was rough around the edges. I looked at them as Bob looked at people: that we are different, but each of us is worthy of respect and acceptance. And together we all make up the beautiful masterpiece that is humanity.”

Before Bob had passed, the couple created a bequest to benefit the Henry Ford Cancer Institute and Hermelin Brain Tumor Center, aimed at furthering innovative research and care. Sandy knew then and even more now, that by supporting critical research and clinical trials their gift will ensure that more patients would have access to treatments at the forefront of cancer care—ones that could save their lives.

“Research and treatment were very important to Bob and me,” says Sandy. “It is my hope that this bequest can help Henry Ford continue to be the innovator it is—and to be able to continue to offer new clinical trials and treatments that are emerging on the horizon to give patients the best chance at survival. I want to be able to give patients a better chance, earlier.”

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