After turning 50, Rob Tanner went to the doctor in May for that checkup all men are supposed to begin getting at 50.
“That’s not supposed to be there,” the doctor said during the routine prostrate check.
“That” turned out to be a lemon-sized tumor between Tanner’s rectum and prostate, and within days tests showed that it was not only a rare cancer called GIST, for gastrointestinal stromal tumor, but it was in a place where few have ever been found. They usually occur in the stomach.
Tanner, marking his ninth anniversary this month as morning host on WSOC-FM (103.7), was put on the drug Gleevec to shrink the tumor, which had not metastasized. But the tumor didn’t shrink much, and now Tanner had a surgery on Feb. 3 at Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa to have it removed.
Tanner has been sharing his progress with listeners, both on the show and on Facebook, and it has become a bit of a comedy routine. “What are you going to do? Cry about it?” says Tanner. “You have to laugh.”
His bosses at CBS Radio put a recliner, donated by Tyndall Furniture, in the studio for Tanner to relax in when he feels like he needs it. And co-workers cut him some slack, at least at the beginning.
“We went and got him his coffee, but just for a week,” says producer Chris Allen.
“Whenever someone tells me to do something, I say, ‘Hey, I can’t do it; I’ve got cancer,’ ” says Tanner.
Tanner admits he was depressed by the diagnosis for the first few days. “I freaked out a little bit. Now I know what it feels like when people are told they have cancer.”
But his faith, his wife Missy, their two children and others in the family helped him develop a positive outlook. It also helped that he didn’t have to go through debilitating chemotherapy, and that his prognosis is good.
Tanner came to Charlotte in an unusual way. D.J. Stout had been made program director for WSOC in late 2004, and he was winnowing down a stack of 60 potential morning hosts. Tanner, then working at a small station in Lakeland, Fla., near Tampa, kept making the cut.
Bill Schoening, CBS Radio’s market manager in Charlotte, happened to be visiting Lakeland, and called Stout to say he’d heard a guy on the radio there who might be a good fit for Charlotte. “I just talked to that very guy this morning,” Stout told him. “He’s coming up for an interview.”
Tanner was Stout’s first hire at the station. “Tanner in the Morning” started on WSOC in January 2005 and is usually among the top five Charlotte morning shows in ratings. Also on the show are Guenn Schneider and Captain Jim Slade.
“Tanner is the most down-to-earth on-air talent I’ve ever worked with,” says Stout. “There’s no big ego, none of that ‘I’m a big, bad morning guy.’ ”
Stout says the station plans what he calls “How’s Tanner’s Cancer?” segments, interviewing Tanner by phone while he’s recuperating.
Tanner expects to be out of work for about three weeks. “I’ll be in the hospital for five to seven days if things go well. If they don’t go well, I will be out in about three hours.”
OK, but seriously. Hasn’t this whole thing taught you something?
“Life’s short,” says Tanner. “Enjoy every day. Spend time with your children. Any day you could walk into your doctor’s office and he could say,‘That’s not supposed to be there.’“
This article was reprinted with permission from the Charlotte Observer.