- Associated Press - Saturday, January 2, 2016

CEDAR FALLS, Iowa (AP) - Bob Foster’s radio broadcasting career has taken him around the country, spanning parts of five decades.

Illness had taken him to death’s door. Faith has brought him back.

Foster, 65, has covered the Indianapolis 500, Iowa State Cyclone football games and now handles sports and morning news at radio station KCNZ in the same studio where he started at sister station KCFI in 1972.

The La Porte City native and 1970 Wartburg College graduate’s journey in life also has taken him to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, many times.

In 1996 he was diagnosed with leukemia. In 2012 he had a bone marrow transplant. He is now in remission. This fall he nearly died of pneumonia, requiring several trips back to Mayo.

He returned to work earlier this month.

His doctors have likened his resiliency to a miracle.

“I’ve been in radio almost 45 years,” Foster told the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier (https://bit.ly/1mgrwJm). “I covered the Indianapolis 500, I was a traffic radio reporter, I was in Louisiana … I was all over the place.” In 1985 he came back to Iowa and worked at KWAY in Waverly, helping change its format to a more contemporary sound. He also worked in Carroll and Mason City.

Beginning in 2000 he worked at Cedar Falls advertising agency ME&V;, now Amperage. He also worked as a producer for Iowa State football for 12 years, from 1998 to 2010. He did freelance work before returning in January to KCNZ-1650 The Fan and its sister stations KCFI 1250 AM and KCVM-95.3 The Mix in January, operated by Jim Coloff of Cedar Valley Broadcasting.

“I’ve known Jim for over 20 years. He’s a good, solid honest Christian businessman. Plus it (KCNZ) is a sports station.”

He pursued his career despite illness. For years various treatments kept the cancer in check. But by the end of 2010, he checked into Mayo.

“They told me my bone marrow was 90 percent leukemia,” he said. “They spent all of 2011 throwing various chemotherapies at me to try to get my bone marrow involvement below 50 percent so I could transplant. Nothing worked.”

Then a Mayo doctor, after hearing a professional presentation, concluded Foster might be able to have a transplant anyway if he had no swollen lymph nodes. He had none. On Feb. 21, 2012 he had a stem cell transplant for his bone marrow.

“My sister was the donor. She and I were a perfect match,” he said. They would spend seven of the next 12 months at the Gift of Life transplant house in Rochester, Minn. He was released for good in July 2012.

His hematologist, Dr. Martha Lacy, called with test results. There was no evidence of residual disease.

“She said, ‘Well, I can definitely say you’re in remission.’” Foster related. “She paused again. She kind of gave a giggle and said, ‘But if you want to say ‘miracle,’ I’m good with that.’”

Today, Foster is his hematologist’s longest-surviving chronic lymphocytic leukemia patient.

Because of the transplant he takes anti-rejection drugs, which make his body less resistant to infection. This fall, that led to a nasty bout of pneumonia. He’d been working hard, and it caught up with him. On Sept. 11, he felt terrible but went to work anyway. By the time he got there, “I could tell I was in real trouble,” he said.

He was taken to the hospital by ambulance, and eventually landed in Mayo. After a couple of weeks he was released, only to return 36 hours later, this time for a week in the ICU. He was admitted five times from September to November.

During hospitalization, Foster, a born-again Christian since 2007, said he saw Christ in a dream, bathed in light. “Christ had his right hand out, and I thought ‘Have I died? If I take his hand will I come across into the light?’ He said, ‘I want you to know I’ve got this.’ He’s healed me and put me back where I am.”

Foster “really feels that’s the big reason why he’s been brought back to us,” said his boss, Coloff. “He’s made a positive impact with the staff.”

Foster said his wife of 28 years, Diane, is his “primary caregiver.”

“She slept in a recliner in a hospital room for three months. She said, ‘I promised you when you were first diagnosed in ‘96 I’d be a your side. I’ve got to keep that promise.’

Foster’s return is timely, Coloff added, as his news colleague, longtime local radio newsman Scott Fenzloff, recovers from a heart attack. Foster hopes to support Fenzloff during his recovery.

“People will say they’re ‘fighting,’ right? - his ‘fight’ against cancer,” Foster said. “Baloney. I’m not ‘fighting’ anything. Because, you see, when you fight, you either win or lose. And when the day comes and I do pass on, I don’t want anybody to say I ‘lost my fight’ to anything. Because my life is not defined by how I died. My life is defined by how I lived.”

“I use the phrase that I never give up,” Foster said. “And there’ s a difference. Because ‘fighting’ is an angry determination. And it consumes a lot of energy to fight. But not giving up means remaining steadfast - remaining steadfast in your faith. Not giving up isn’t easy, but it requires a lot less negative energy. It’s more positive.”

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Information from: Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier, https://www.wcfcourier.com

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