Oregon State Senator Frank L. Roberts

Oregon State Senator Frank L Roberts

In 1987, Frank L. Roberts, then-State Senator and husband to former Oregon Governor Barbara Roberts, was diagnosed with prostate cancer. While undergoing radiation treatment, Frank suffered damage to his spinal cord. It left him unable to stand or walk, but he still zipped around the Capitol on a motorized scooter, working for the Oregonians he had been elected to serve.

By 1992, however, his cancer had progressed. “By the time we got the terminal diagnosis, we’d had lots of discussions on the topic. He had had cancer for several years. One kind of cancer would go away and it would metastasize somewhere else,” according to Governor Roberts.

Knowing that Frank had come to the last stages of his cancer, his doctor immediately moved to create a chemotherapy plan for Frank, attempting to set up appointments for him. However, Barbara recounted that Frank asked two crucial questions: “Will this treatment extend my life?” and “For how long?”

The answers the doctor gave did not align with Frank’s priorities for how he wanted to spend the rest of his life. The treatments would not allow him a path back to health and so Frank lived out his remaining time without the recommended chemotherapy.

Governor Roberts said that because of his discussions about treatment with his doctor and his family, “ Frank said ‘yes’ to life and began the hard work of acceptance of what is means to be mortal.”

Frank Roberts entered hospice care in April 1993 and died on October 31, 1993 in the Governor’s residence, surrounded by those who loved him.