Partners for Life
Rob Kipper and Craig Prater have been together for nearly half a century. They met in Kansas City in 1969, when attitudes were ... different.
“We come from a generation where we could be shot on the curb, fired from our jobs and all those kinds of things for being gay,” says Craig.
Not to mention the difficulties encountered when someone gets sick.
“There can be a certain discomfort for gay couples, not knowing how doctors are going to accept it,” says Craig. “It’s a very nerve-wracking thing.”
Around 2004 Rob developed a severe rash that turned out to be Stage 4 T cell lymphoma. He began treatment at City of Hope, receiving chemotherapy and eventually a stem cell transplant.
Rob and Craig both received something else, too. Total acceptance.
“Whether you’ve got all the legal papers or marriage status, City of Hope could really care less,” said Craig. “We could not have been more accepted. It was perfect.”
Not that the treatment was easy.
“The doctors said, ‘We are going to destroy your body, and we’re going to slowly put it back together,’” said Rob. “And they did.”
After the transplant, Rob spent the first few weeks in a semi-comatose state while his body adjusted to the new stem cells. Craig was right there with him, enabled by the supportive City of Hope staff.
“They created a bed for him inside of the room with me,” said Rob. “Craig was my caregiver through all of this. He was there 24/7 – never left my side.”
That caring spirit wasn't limited to staff. One day Rob wandered into the sixth floor observation lounge where a man sitting there said to him, “I was where you were, and it will get better.” He then took Rob down to an exercise room he had donated.
“Everybody at City of Hope, we’re all on the same level,” Rob said. “I don’t care if you’re a multimillionaire, or you don’t have two nickels to rub together, they’re all treated the same way. Each person helps each other, even in the waiting room. It’s a unique and wonderful place.”
More than 10 years later Rob is doing great, and he and Craig are giving back. In May of 2016, they joined with City of Hope's Pride in the City diversity resource group for LGBT patients and their families at the LA! PRIDE parade in West Hollywood. They're also helping to bring the Be the Match bone marrow registry to the attention of the LGBT community.
And, in 2014, they were married.
Attitudes do change.