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Article by Dale Moss in the Courier Journal
November 28, 2004

Dale Moss

Bob Potter was back on the golf course weeks after surgery for colon cancer. His triumphant return lasted only a hole or two.

The pouch loosened from his colostomy and the embarrassed Potter had no choice but to excuse himself.

Potter soon ventured again into normalcy, bowling in his Sunday night league. His old body went one way, his new plumbing another.

How dare it. "`I'm going to stay active,'" Potter said he told himself. "`I've got to do something to keep the thing in place.'"

Ever the competitor, Potter designed and had sewn a cotton and Velcro belt to hold snug the pouch and the bodily waste it contains. He receives such belts now for Father's Day, and on Christmas, from a handy daughter-in-law.

"Works like a charm," Potter said.

Bobby Potter
Jeffersonville, Indiana

Ever the nice guy, Potter offers a pattern of his invention for free to others in his situation. Almost a dozen years off the operating table, Potter has liberated from misery himself and as many as 100 friends and strangers. Such satisfaction, Potter said.

"It gave me confidence," said John Montgomery of Jeffersonville, who is back practicing law after cancer surgery and a temporary colostomy. "It was a comfortable feeling to have that."

Potter, 67, is a former Jeffersonville city councilman and, fittingly, a salesman of medical supplies. Typically he's known as Bobby, which is how he was known when at 5-foot-8 on tiptoes, he starred for the Jeffersonville High and then later the University of Louisville basketball teams.

That's Potter with the quickest laugh in the Elks Club, in the middle of the gab at the Knights of Columbus. "He'll talk your arm off," Montgomery went on. "But he does it out of the graciousness of his heart."

"Bobby really just lives to make people happy," said Carol Sue Potter, Bob Potter's wife of 46 years.

An Elk or two, same with the Knights, are among those whom Bob Potter has buoyed when asked. So was Cline Kent, father of Vicky Kent Haire, a Clark County commissioner. Kent died of cancer in 2002 after an upbeat stretch his daughter attributed to Potter.

"It gave him the best hope," Haire said. "Dad had really started getting depressed."

One of Potter's five children is a physician who gave his dad his annual physical. Scott Potter discovered a trace of blood in his father's stool and Bob Potter spotted blood himself before long. A colonoscopy confirmed its horrid cause cancer near his rectum and the need for the colostomy.

"I wasn't going to let anything get me down," Potter said. "I knew it was a permanent thing. I had to accept it and work around it."

Potter's stoma the opening through which waste passes is near his left side. "I feel so secure with it," he said of his belt. "I've got nice, soft cotton against my body, other than just that plastic bag."

Potter devised what he said he otherwise could not find, at least locally. He considered patenting and marketing the belt but balked at the bureaucracy and the expense. He sells instead his story of optimism, of fearless golf and bowling and you name it.

Montgomery confirms that Potter's determination is as valuable as his device. "I can do everything I did before I had the colostomy," Potter said.

That attitude rallied Mary Ann Ellis of Jeffersonville before she died of cancer last year. "It was comforting for her to see somebody going through day-to-day activities, leading life," said her son, Jay Ellis.

Potter realizes that cancer doesn't back down any more easily than he does. He has nine grandchildren to watch grow up, and no telling how more belts to suggest.

"After 12 years, I almost feel healed," said Potter, glad to report he eats almost whatever he wants and maintains a low golf handicap. "But you never know. Many times, cancer comes back . I'm not worried. I'll whip it again."

To learn more from Potter, call him at 288-8754.

Dale Moss' column runs Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays on the Indiana page.
Reach him at (812) 949-4026 or by e-mail at dmoss@courier-journal.com.
You can also read his columns at http://www.courier-journal.com./


Bobby Potter is a friend of mine and a member at the Jeffersonville Elks Club. Bob plays golf often and is an avid competitor. Bobby has not let cancer get him down and appears always to be friendly and helpful..............Ray Beaufait


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