Never closer, couple count their days together

Submitted photo

Rob and Kathy Blaschko

Burnsville couple both cope with illness 

After 21 years of marriage, Rob and Kathy Blaschko are as close as ever.

“There’s not one of them without the other,” said their niece, Kaija McMillen. “They’re always together.”

The Burnsville couple have some time left to care for each other. Rob has terminal prostate cancer, McMillen said, and family members learned on June 8 that Kathy was diagnosed with breast cancer.

Rob, 61, and Kathy, 59, have an extended family support network about an hour away. Rob is one of nine siblings from a family raised in Le Center, Minnesota.

“There are definitely harder days when we have more phone calls and more tears,” said McMillen, of Le Center. “But we’re just trying to do our best. Right now he’s feeling OK, so we’re trying to make memories while we still have this version of him that we know and while she’s still able to do all of the things that she can for him.”

Rob, who no longer work at his IT job with the testing company Pearson VUE, was diagnosed last year with prostate cancer and had been in remission when it reappeared in March, McMillen said. This time, doctors have given him nine to 18 months.

Rob is her favorite uncle, said McMillen, both of whose parents are from Le Center.

“When he lived in Boston he would come home to Minnesota to visit and would always stay at my parents’ house, and I would always give him my room,” said McMillen, 30, who’s studying for a master’s degree in mental health counseling. “We’ve been very close since I was very little.”

When she suffered a traumatic brain injury in 2015, Rob and his wife were faithful visitors. Now it’s her turn. Kathy doesn’t drive, so family members from the Le Center-Le Sueur area come to the Twin Cities for the couple’s medical appointments.

“We’re just a very enmeshed, close, intricate family,” McMillen said.

Kathy, who also suffers from transverse myelitis, is preparing to have her lymph nodes removed and begin chemotherapy, McMillen said. She was easily welcomed into Rob’s extended family when the couple married, and is known for giving personalized gifts on special occasions.

“She’s still that way,” McMillen said. “If she can make something, she will. Uncle Rob is not having much of an appetite, but he likes her homemade yogurt. That’s one of this favorite things right now — that and hot tamales.”

Kathy tends toward privacy around her own illness.

“She’s more focused on making sure the family knows what’s going on with Rob,” McMillen said.

A GoFundMe page to help the couple with medical expenses is at https://gf.me/v/c/h5mm/rob-amp-kathy-medical.

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