photo: AP/Geert Vanden WijngaertFulfilling the song title of the Bee Gees' disco classic "Stayin' Alive" in the most wonderful and literal way possible, 62-year-old Bee Gees member Robin Gibb defied the odds and awoke from a coma in a central London hospital this weekend, just days after his family had been told he might never regain consciousness. "Only three days ago, I warned Robin's wife Dwina, son Robin-John, and brother Barry that I feared the worst," Gibb's physician, Dr. Andrew Thillainayagam, revealed in a statement Sunday. "We felt it was very likely that Robin would succumb to what seemed to be insurmountable obstacles to any form of meaningful recovery. As a team, we were all concerned that we might be approaching the realms of futility."
Gibb's awakening is fantastic news, of course, but unfortunately, he still has a long and hard battle ahead of him, as it was revealed by Dr. Thillainayagam that Gibb is suffering from advanced colorectal cancer. On the positive side, Gibb is now fully conscious and able to speak, which is a minor miracle. However, as of this writing, Gibb remains in intensive care and, according to Dr. Thillainayagam, is "exhausted, extremely weak, and malnourished." Gibb is still depending on an oxygen mask, I.V., and antibiotics.
Gibb lapsed into a coma last week after catching pneumonia due to his weakened immune system, the result of his battles with both colon and liver cancer and undergoing two operations as well as chemotherapy. In his statement released Sunday, Dr. Thillainayagam credited the devotion of the Gibb family with bringing Robin back from the brink, saying: "It is testament to Robin's extraordinary courage, iron will, and deep reserves of physical strength that he has overcome quite incredible odds to get where he is now. Robin's wife Dwina and son Robin-John, his son Spencer, and daughter Melissa have been at his bedside every day, talking to him and playing his favorite music to him. They have been tireless in their determination never to give up on him."
According to BBC News, Gibb wept when his wife Dwina played him Roy Orbison's song, "Crying." Dwina revealed to her local paper, The Impartial Reporter, that Robin's Bee Gees brother, Barry Gibb, sang to him as well. "His brother Barry, his wife Linda, and son Stephen came over from America. Barry was singing to him. Thousands of people are saying prayers every day," Dwina said.
Robin Gibb's most recent musical work was a collaboration with his son, Robin-John: "Don't Cry Alone," a classical piece composed especially for the Titanic Requiem commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Titanic tragedy. Robin-John told Britain's ITV News that his father woke up specifically when his "Titanic" music was played for him at the hospital.
Gibb had been scheduled to attend last week's premiere of the Requiem at Central Hall Westminster in London, but was too ill to make it. His wife and other members of the Gibb family attended in his place, and a recording was played instead.
"['Don't Cry Alone'] was written and inspired by, a husband is taken by the sea, and with all the power of his soul he calls out to his wife not to cry alone. He reassures her that his spirit will always guide her and their children, and begs that she never doubt him. He is only a whisper away. She only has to think of him and he will be there. She need never cry alone again," Dwina Gibb told The Impartial Reporter. The poignant song has no doubt taken on new, special meaning in these dark times for the Gibbs.
Colorectal cancer, more commonly known as bowel cancer, is defined as cancer that develops on either inside of the large intestine, or in the rectum, according to the A.D.A.M. Medical Encyclopedia. According to cancer.org, it has a survival rate of between 59 and 74 percent if caught in its early stages, but that rate can be as low as six percent in its advanced stages. It is unclear which exact stage Gibb is in, other than one that is, sadly, "advanced."
"The road ahead for Robin remains uncertain, but it is a privilege to look after such an extraordinary human being," Dr. Thillainayagam said Sunday.