From surviving to thriving |

From surviving to thriving

Greyson Howard
Sierra Sun
Photo courtesy of Keoki FlaggRobert and#8220;Froand#8221; Frohlich holds a string of messages from the Tahoe Forest Hospital Cancer Center above his head in Antarctica in November.
©Keoki Flagg/WME 2009 |

TRUCKEE and#8212; Late last November, Tahoe writer Robert and#8220;Froand#8221; Frohlich sat in the Sierra Sun office, wearing a ski jacket patched with team logos, and a chemo pump around his neck.

The day after Thanksgiving, his next stop was Tahoe Forest Hospital to start the 20th round of the cancer-fighting drugs that can do nearly as much damage to the man as to the disease.

and#8220;Iand#8217;m not sure what my future is, but Iand#8217;ve decided to take this head on,and#8221; Frohlich said that day. and#8220;If I can prolong another year I want to continue to fulfill my passions.and#8221;

But now, in January, thereand#8217;s a real glimmer of hope.

It all started 15 months ago. Frohlich was diagnosed with appendix cancer, an extremely rare and aggressive form, and given three to six months to live.

and#8220;The doctor told me and#8212; itand#8217;s not a miracle, but highly unusual. Most people are given a five percent chance with this one … I seem to have fallen in the five percent bracket,and#8221; Frohlich said Jan. 13. and#8220;I canand#8217;t say Iand#8217;ve beaten it but compared to a year ago and#8212; this is really good news.and#8221;

The cancer isnand#8217;t in remission, but seems to be contained, Frohlich said. More tests at the end of the month will help doctors decide whatand#8217;s next.

and#8220;Froand#8221; has been a prolific writer about all things Tahoe and skiing since the 1970s.

When he was diagnosed in 2008, an outpouring of support came from the community, helping Frohlich through the surgeries and chemotherapy cycles, both emotionally and financially.

and#8220;The whole north shore came to my aid,and#8221; Frohlich said. and#8220;Iand#8217;m blessed living in this community.and#8221;

After his first surgery, the most exercise he could muster was a walk around the block, arms over friends at either side, helping him along.

His first day back at Squaw, struggling into his ski boots and walking to the gondola was all he could manage.

Slowly but surely, he worked his way back into shape, and walked in the Billy Dutton Uphill race at Squaw last April.

and#8220;Then in June, the disease came back with a vengeance,and#8221; Frohlich said.

Back to square one, he worked his way back into shape yet again after another surgery in September and#8212; this time with a goal in mind: Antarctica.

Frohlich set his sites on an Ice Ax Expeditions trip to Antarctica, led by Truckeeand#8217;s Doug Stoup.

A hearty group of 105 people boarded the Clipper Adventurer in Ushuaia, Argentina, in the beginning of November, and lived aboard for about two weeks, taking small zodiac rafts to and from Antarctica to explore and ski, he said.

and#8220;Skiing with and#8216;Froand#8217; was amazing. We climbed up a couple thousand feet, skied down, and he said, and#8216;again.and#8217; We went back up, following red bits of snow where he coughed blood the last time up, and came down again. And then he wanted to go a third time! So we did,and#8221; Stoup said at a slide show presentation of the trip in December.

Conditions were perfect, Frohlich said, with smooth sailing on a reputedly bad-tempered stretch of sea, and blue-bird weather in a place known for constant clouds and storms.

and#8220;It was like stepping into another world,and#8221; Frohlich said. and#8220;The untamed wilderness overwhelmed you with its beauty. The wildlife was mind-blowing and#8212; youand#8217;d be on a zodiac going to shore and a baleen whale would breach or there would be an elephant seal on an iceberg. Fifty penguins would surround you to see what you were doing.and#8221;

and#8220;I think this was a job given to me instead of others. Iand#8217;m glad it was me, because I hate to see others with cancer and#8212; let alone the one I have,and#8221; Frohlich said. and#8220;You learn to make the negatives into positives.and#8221;

Both the disease and the treatment have taken their toll on him, Frohlich said, but exercise is key to staying happy and healthy.

and#8220;I havenand#8217;t been able to feel my feet or fingers in five months and I cough up blood, but you have to do the best you can,and#8221; Frohlich said.

Setting goals has also helped him keep going.

and#8220;I think a lot of my recovery had to do with Antarctica and#8212; I had a goal to aim for,and#8221; Frohlich said.

So whatand#8217;s next? Frohlich said heand#8217;s setting more goals, like climbing and skiing Mount Shasta in the spring.

and#8220;I just hope to keep going forward,and#8221; he said.

To read Frohlichand#8217;s dispatches from Antarctica, and to see more of Keoki Flaggand#8217;s photos of the trip, go to