BILLINGS — Bob and Melva Meiwald have a health story you may not believe until you hear it.
They are an inseparable Montana couple from just outside Lodge Grass. They love traveling together, exploring the great outdoors of Montana together and soaking up all that life has to offer together.
“We love riding the Indian Motorcycle to go through the mountains. Like last year we were in Glacier, so that was awesome being there for the summer,” says Melva.
“We do everything together,” added Bob.
But this March, they began a new adventure they never expected, temporarily moving to Billings to fight cancer together. Both were diagnosed with stage two cancer. Melva is battling colon and rectal cancer, and Bob has larynx cancer.
“It’s slowly getting worse and worse and they said I’m going to lose my voice,” says Bob.
Bob gets radiation treatments every afternoon.
“They put a mesh over my face and they tie me down and they radiate. They shoot me right here and it takes about 10 minutes and I’m done, but I have to do that every day, 35 days,” says Bob.
Meanwhile, Melva has chemo every other Tuesday at the St. Vincent Healthcare Cancer Centers of Montana, then the next two days at a Billings West End home.
“He takes me to my treatment, sits with me and I go to his,” says Melva. “We’re just going to get it done together.”
They say it's a lot, but something about this particular home is making their lives a lot easier during an almost unthinkable time.
“Robert and Melva are staying at our Meadowlark House out on the west end of Billings, and it is four units of housing dedicated to patients who are receiving their care at the Cancer Centers of Montana,” says Tyler Wiltgen, executive director of St. Vincent Healthcare Foundation. “So often times patients are driving from all over the state of Montana, hours, hundreds of miles away, and it is not practical for them to drive home between treatments because they are here for 10 days to two months. We really strive to provide a place where they can relax and refresh themselves between cancer treatments and really have their home away from home.”
That's also one of the missions of Yellowstone Relay for Life: making life easier for survivors.
“Relay for Life funds a lot of our transportation grants, our lodging grants that we provide for our hospital systems across the state of Montana as well as right here in Billings,” says Andrea Arredondo, American Cancer Society senior development manager. “We provide the grants to the hospitals and then they can take that and then they can get hotel rooms for people.
That kindness, a home away from home, is one of the reasons for Bob and Melva's latest adventures: walking a survivor lap together at this year’s relay.
“I’m really excited about Bob and Melva coming. This is their first time, their first experience. They haven’t been to a relay before and really the community and the connection and the people you get to meet and stand side by side, because we are all in the same fight together, is something you really can’t put into words. You kind of just have to experience it," says Arredondo.
“I don’t really know what to expect yet, but we’re going to get involved and see what we can do to help people after us, to help other people get better too,” says Bob Meiwald.
Bob is a Desert Storm veteran originally from Rocky Boy and works as a heavy equipment operator traveling the state. He’s now unable to travel or work due to cancer treatment. Melva is a retired purchasing agent for the Fort Berthold tribe, originally from Mandaree, North Dakota. Bob’s oldest daughter Jessica is currently battling breast cancer.
Yellowstone Relay for Life is July 14 with the survivor lap kicking off at 6:45 p.m. at the Billings West High School track. A separate survivor celebration is scheduled for July 13. Anyone can register for relay via this link.
Family members and friends have set up a Go Fund Me account .