‘Just kind of along for the ride’: Bucoda mayor Rob Gordon battling stomach cancer

Thurston County town’s former mayor also recovering from cancer as he organizes fundraiser for current mayor


Having taken over as the mayor of Bucoda at the end of 2022 following former Mayor Steven Purcell’s resignation due to his non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma returning, 41-year-old Rob Gordon is now dealing with his own cancer diagnosis.

Aside from being the mayor of the South Thurston County town, Gordon operates his own logging and dump truck business and his family’s ranch, and he has served as a volunteer firefighter since just before his 16th birthday.

“I’m kind of thinking that’s where all of this cancer came from, exposure to smoke and chemicals,” Gordon told The Chronicle this week.

His ordeal began abruptly at the beginning of the month when he ended up in the emergency room with a severe fever and excruciating abdominal pain to the point where it hurt to breathe. After getting tests and scans, doctors discovered lesions on his liver, leading them to recommend he see an oncologist immediately.

While waiting for the oncologist, he was on painkillers, but he ended up in the ER again about a week later after vomiting up blood multiple times.

“It looked like a horror movie. It was a lot,” Gordon said.

Once he was finally seen by an oncologist, he was diagnosed with a malignant neoplasm of the stomach and metastatic liver disease, or in other words, stage 4 stomach cancer that has spread to his liver.

“They consider it stage 4 because it’s already spread from the source to somewhere else,” Gordon said.

Aside from being advanced, Gordon has been told the cancer is inoperable at this point. His only option is immediate chemotherapy with the hope it forces the cancer into remission.

“You gotta be hopeful. What else do you do? You’re just kind of along for the ride,” he added.

Last Wednesday, he had surgery to install a chemotherapy port. He was scheduled to start the therapy on Monday, Nov. 27.

The only medicine he can take at the moment is oxycodone for pain management, as his liver can’t process acetaminophen, and ibuprofen was causing the bleeding in his stomach.

Gordon added he’s already lost some weight and is dealing with a loss of appetite and taste. The pain has been increasing, and he’s been having to up his dosage of oxycodone. He is trying to determine if he can start chemotherapy sooner.

“We’re just playing the waiting game now to get chemo started,” Gordon said.

Gordon said the support from fellow city councilors and city staff has been amazing and he’s appreciative. He still plans to work as mayor while undergoing chemotherapy.

“So far, I’ve been able to go into the office for at least an hour every day. I figure I can sit on my couch just as easily as my chair in my office,” Gordon said.

His fellow volunteer firefighters have also been offering to help in any way they can.

Gordon added both the Bucoda community and his family have been extremely supportive, offering him everything from meals to help feeding his cows on the ranch.

Additionally, his sister-in-law has set up an online crowd-funding campaign to raise money to help with Gordon’s medical expenses. The campaign can be found at https://www.gofundme.com/f/help-rob-in-his-fight-against-cancer?utm_campaign=p_cp+share-sheet&utm_medium=copy_link_all&utm_source=customer.

Set with a goal of $10,000, the online fundraising campaign had raised $7,450 as of Tuesday, Nov. 28.

Additionally, Purcell — who is currently recovering from non-Hodgkins lymphoma, which he has been battling on-and-off for more than a decade — is organizing a benefit spaghetti dinner to help cover Gordon’s medical expenses.

“It’s being sponsored by (International Order of Odd Fellows) Skookumchuck Lodge No. 129, Bucoda’s Rebekah Lodge No. 144, Trinity Rebekah Lodge No. 179 out of Napavine and the Bucoda Improvement Club,” Purcell said.

The spaghetti dinner will be held on Sunday, Dec. 17, starting at 3 p.m. on the second floor of the Bucoda Town Hall and Community Center, located at 101A E. Seventh St. in Bucoda.

Spaghetti, garlic bread, salad, punch and coffee will be served.

Cost to attend the benefit is $15 per person, or $40 for a family of four, with each additional family member costing $15. All proceeds benefit Gordon and his family.

Purcell added his own recovery is progressing.

“At my last checkup a couple of months ago, I’m still in remission,” he said.

The Offut Lake Resort announced on its Facebook page that donations given at its annual Polar Plunge event, scheduled for Jan. 1, 2024, will also benefit Gordon and his family.

The Polar Plunge event begins at 9 a.m. on New Year’ Day with breakfast at the Lady of the Lake Public House, located at 4005 120th Ave. SE, Tenino, with the plunge commencing at 10 a.m.

For more information, call the Offut Lake Resort at 360-264-2438, or visit the resort’s Facebook page at https://bit.ly/3urJ8dt.