He fought to live so he could live to fight

Senior Airman Jessica Haas
8th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

“The doctor told me I had cancer in the top of my shin bone,” said Staff Sgt. Robert Timms, 8th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron unit fitness program manager. “Two days later, I was medically evacuated to Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Washington, D.C., to begin my treatment.” Staff Sgt. Robert Timms became a certified personal trainer to give back to others after his battle with cancer.

Timms is his squadron’s physical training monitor at Kunsan Air Base, Republic of Korea, and is also a certified personal trainer. He is, and always has been, a very active person, which is why being diagnosed with cancer was such a shock to him and those who knew him.

“My life revolved around physical activities,” Timms said. “At the age of eight, I was enrolled in Sho-To-Kan karate and have been hooked on physically bettering myself ever since.”

Years passed and Timms continued to expand upon his athletic repertoire. He practiced kickboxing and later went on to play semi-professional football for the Italian Football League while stationed at Aviano Air Base, Italy.

PHOTO 1: Staff Sgt. Robert Timms, 8th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron unit fitness program manager, rubs chalk on his hands to help increase his grip while lifting weights at Kunsan Air Base, Republic of Korea, July 19, 2013. Timms is certified in personal training, a passion fueled by overcoming cancer and wanting to give back to others. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jessica Haas/Released)

“I loved playing football,” he said. “It was just another way for me to have fun and get physical. But playing football is how I realized something was wrong with my leg. I went to the doctor and was told it was bursitis or tendonitis, so I was given medication, which ultimately did nothing to help.”

After seeing his doctor, receiving a several cortisone shots and being through one too many x-rays for almost a year, he requested a different doctor.

“The new doctor took more x-rays and noticed something the other did not – my left shin showed black at the top,” Timms said. “That’s when he told me it was cancer.”

On Christmas Eve of 2008, the athlete went in for his first biopsy so the physician could take a sample of the cancer from his leg. Timms was required to go back in again for a second biopsy on New Year’s Day.

“After both biopsies, I began chemotherapy,” Timms said. “Everything you can possibly imagine happening during chemo is what happened. I lost my hair, couldn’t eat and was weak and tired all of the time.”

While the kickboxer struggled through his therapy, he started working at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., under the patient squadron in the systems flight.

“While recovering from the cancer, I really enjoyed the work I did in the medical field; so much so I considered cross-training into that career field,” Timms said. “I looked at all the people who had helped me, and really wanted the chance to give back.”

Time passed and before he knew it, the cancer victim completed his last round of chemotherapy. He was cancer free by June 2009.

“I felt empowered; like I had beaten one of the biggest ailments to ever attack the human race,” he said. “Even though I have beaten it, I still have to take tests every year to ensure that it is gone and hasn’t come back. But I’ll take that any day over the pain I felt in my leg.”

By March 2010, the cancer-survivor moved to Moody Air Force Base, Ga., and went back to his previous career field as a weapons loader.

“My intentions to help people went to the wayside until I deployed to Afghanistan in March 2011,” Timms said. “But once I arrived in the desert, I decided to better myself – and that’s what I did.”

The bodybuilder was 100 percent committed to the gym and working out. This is when he decided on a career field geared towards helping others.

“I thought if I can help others without changing my career and, at the same time, increasing my knowledge in an area that I love, why not get certified in personal training?” Timms said.

Staff Sgt. Robert Timms performs a bicep curl while at Kunsan Air Base, Republic of Korea.

PHOTO 2: Staff Sgt. Robert Timms, 8th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron unit fitness program manager, performs a bicep curl while at Kunsan Air Base, Republic of Korea, July 19, 2013. Timms has been physically active his entire life, participating in activities including Sho-To-Kan karate and football. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jessica Haas/Released)

The weapons loader returned to Moody AFB with 60 extra pounds of muscle and an eagerness to use his newly acquired certification in personal training.

“I only tell people my story to motivate them, because I used to be the guy who saw commercials on television about cancer and always said, that will never be me,” he said. “So when people say they can’t do something, I show them they can through my experiences.”

Timms’ passion for fitness is fueled by the idea that if a person wants something badly enough and believes failure is not an option, then it won’t be, and anything is possible.

“I love people and I enjoy helping them,” Timms said. “When someone is smiling because they feel good about themselves, I feel good. I can’t think of anything better than that.”

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He fought to live so he could live to fight