Doctor/author prescribes positive outlook in 'Lasso the Sunshine'

Ann Knef Dec. 20, 2006, 6:01am

Bob Farmer, M.D.

The Farmer family: Bob and Christina with children Austin, Alexis and Ashleigh

A graduate of Southern Illinois University School of Medicine, who is a family practitioner in downstate Illinois, has donated 10,000 copies of his new book to the SimmonsCooper Cancer Institute at SIU (SCCI) in Springfield.

The books will go to Illinois patients and families facing the fight against cancer.

Bob Farmer, M.D., who practices in New Baden, delivered the boxes of the paperback book, "Lasso the Sunshine – Capture the Brighter Side of Life," to SIU this week.

He said that the 114-page book was written "to optimize the emotional health, and subsequently the physical health, of residents of southern Illinois, consistent with the charter mission of the School of Medicine."

The book is a mix of autobiographical, biographical, philosophical and spiritual thoughts.

In the following excerpt, Farmer draws on the spiritual strength found in prisoner of war survivors.

"History is replete with individuals who find themselves in situations that require them to make the most primitive of choices – give up or survive. War, by the very nature of the beast, fosters and environment teeming with survival opportunities. Senator John McCain, who many recall as the straight-talking former Republican presidential contender against George W. Bush, is a genuine Vietnam War hero who faced his own survival choices.

"In the preface of McCain's memoir, he recounts the words written by Victor Frankel, a survivor of the concentration camp at Auschwitz. He wrote, "Everything can be taken from man but one thing: the last of human freedoms – to choose one's own attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way." In essence, this is what lassoing the sunshine is all about. It is about making a choice in how one will respond to a given situation. It is about capturing the brighter side."

Farmer is a 1995 graduate of SIU School of Medicine as well as a 1991 graduate of the University of Illinois.

He said it was a natural fit for him to donate the copies of his book to the SIU medical school and its new cancer institute.

"I give SIU great credit in training me to focus on the whole patient," he explained. "I try to view patients as individual persons and not as a disease or a number on a chart."

In writing the book, Farmer said he drew upon his own experiences during residency training in Indiana as a source for the book's content.

Finding himself on-call in the hospital on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, away from his wife and family, he began feeling sorry for himself. Seeing a story on the evening news about the U.S. military serving in Bosnia while he was taking a short break, he resolved to make the most of a seemingly bad situation.

"I made a decision to look at the brighter side of things and tried to spend that time on call making a positive impact," writes Farmer. "I spent a lot of time talking with my patients mostly about things unrelated to their illnesses. Patients genuinely appreciated that and for once I actually enjoyed my time on call."

Plans are for the SimmonsCooper Cancer Institute at SIU to distribute the books in a variety of ways, including giving to patients and various support groups.

Downstate hospitals and community cancer agencies will be contacted about making books available. Copies can also be requested on-line starting in January on the SCCI Web site.

"As the Cancer Institute continues to grow, with new researchers and physicians joining our faculty and the building construction underway on our permanent home, it is very gratifying that Dr. Farmer is providing something so special for cancer patients," said K. Thomas Robbins, M.D., SCCI director.

"Those struggling with cancer need more than treatment expertise or research results and we know his book will help many."

SIU's Cancer Institute is focusing the medical school's efforts in cancer research, physician and public education, and treatment for patients from across central and southern Illinois.

Construction is underway on the $21.2 million permanent facility in Springfield for the Institute.

A resident of Shiloh, Farmer and his wife, Christina, have three children – Austin, Alexis and Ashleigh. Raised in Belleville, he is a solo practitioner in New Baden, about 30 miles east of St. Louis. His Web site is

More News