Cancer rocks Magnolia couple

Fundraiser launched to pay mounting bills

That joie de vivre, or joy of living, fits Magnolia couple Frances and Robert Holmstrom like a snug glove, though their current situation is the antithesis of the French expression.
While the couple holds hands on the couch in their living room, smile at one another and reminisce about their 15 years together, a stranger would have trouble finding proof that Bob was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer this March.
"We're soulmates, playmates and heartmates," said Frances, whose vibrant paintings hang around the cozy apartment. One is of the pair running, an activity they have always enjoyed doing together. Beside it is an interpretation of Holmstrom back during his Elvis impersonation days.
The news came four days after Frances' 70th birthday. For the past few years, Bob has run 100 miles a month, and has always been quite healthy-which made the diagnosis all the more surprising.
Bob is known around Magnolia as "the community guy" for how involved he has been since he moved into his first apartment there with Frances in 1996. He spent four years on the Magnolia Chamber of Commerce and six years on the board of trustees for the Magnolia Community Club.
He was on the Magnolia Bridge replacement committee and has volunteered at the American Cancer Society, where Frances has managed 12 states in advocacy for 10 years.
In 1977, Bob opened his own painting business, Holmstrom Family Painting Inc.
"How's that for a name," he said with a laugh. He painted for 33 years but after his diagnosis was advised to sell his business this spring.
Bob is also a registered counselor and practiced out of his house, specializing in male and couples counseling.
"What do painting and counseling have in common?" Holmstrom asked.
What Bob wanted to do was make a positive impact in the lives of those around him. Through painting, he can transform a home. With counseling, he can help people improve their lives.
Now that support has come full circle.
The tight community of friends and family in Magnolia and beyond have become a huge source of strength to the couple.
Neighbors and friends have sent flowers and cards, brought food and words of comfort.
"They are so loved and respected by everyone that knows them," said long time friend Laurel White. "They give and share so much. They are such sources of inspiration and guidance."
They have also had some help financially. After selling his business, Bob has had to rely on his savings, which is running low, and he doesn't qualify for Medicare until November.
"We love Magnolia to our hearts end," said Bob. "With my sons and wife around, it makes me want to breath a little bit longer." Bob made the decision three weeks ago to stay on hospice care, which is available 24 hours a day to make sure he is comfortable.
"I'm going to be very lonely with out him," Frances said.
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