Friends and family come together for Ken Bowlby

PERU - Ken Bowlby Sr. is a fighter.

The 63-year-old Schuyler Falls man was diagnosed with cancer of the jaw last August, and according to his daughter, Jaime Whittaker, it was something that began to spread aggressively.

"The doctors said it looked like he had had it more than a year before it was caught," said Whittaker.

Even from the time of the biopsy for the cancer to when he had the initial surgery to remove the infected part of his lower jaw, Bowlby's cancer had moved quickly, said his daughter.

"What happened is the tumor itself grew so quickly that doctors ended up taking more of his jaw than they originally planned," she said. "But, it could've spread into his upper jaw and could've gone into his brain."

"The doctors seem to think they've removed it all," she added.

The loss of his lower jaw has made it difficult for her father to speak, said Whittaker, with she and the rest of his family communicating for him on his behalf.

"He can speak a little bit, but it's very hard to understand him when he talks," she said. "It's been difficult for him, though, because he's used to being active, not feeling like he has to depend on everyone so much."

However, Bowlby's "high spirits" have helped him cope, she said.

"My dad is the kind of person who uses humor to stay positive no matter what," said Whittaker.

Last Sunday, a benefit was held in Bowlby's honor, to help with travel expenses he's incurred going back and forth to Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. The turnout was overwhelming, said Bowlby's wife, Donna.

"Our kids worked so hard to put this benefit together," she said. "We're so proud of them."

The idea of putting the benefit together was a no-brainer, said their son, Chris.

"We're just pleased the community has turned out to support our dad," he said. "It's very heart-warming."

Those who were unable to attend the benefit but still interested in helping Bowlby and his family may send donations to 65 Westcott Road, Schuyler Falls, NY 12985.

Currently, Bowlby is undergoing speech therapy and will soon schedule reconstructive surgery for his jaw.

"It's been a pretty big ordeal," said Whittaker, "but he's staying positive."

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