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home : columns : columns March 21, 2018

2/6/2018 2:14:00 PM
Cancer and me: It's a family affair
Jim and Katie Williams have been battling his cancer by Jim Williams
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Jim and Katie Williams have been battling his cancer by Jim Williams

By Jim Williams

From the moment we received my diagnosis, this has been about more than just me and the impact it has had on my life. It's about the impact it has had on my family as well - in particular my courageous wife, Katie.

After the shock and awe of a third diagnosis subsided, it was time to get to work, and I don't think anybody worked harder than Katie. Having gone through this twice before, I told her that I had to just be the patient this time, that I couldn't handle trying to recover, and deal with the immense amount of paperwork and bills we would have to manage. She accepted this challenge and didn't even blink.

We were living in Oregon City at the time, and fortunately we were only about 20 minutes from the oncology clinic. When the doctors came up with the plan of attack, Katie was ready to rock. Katie took me to all 35 of my radiation treatments. My daughter, who lives here in Sisters, did her part from afar, making sure she texted and called her daddy whenever she could.

When it was time to start chemotherapy, Katie once again took me to every treatment, and helped me with every nasty side effect I had to deal with. She saved my life on at least one occasion. The chemotherapy treatment was so horrible that in addition to diarrhea, I developed mouth sores that were so bad that I could barely drink; food was out of the question. What I could consume went through me nearly as quickly as I got it down. At one point I had lost so much fluid that my blood pressure dropped to a dangerous level. I couldn't get to the foot of the bed without feeling dizzy, and nearly falling down. Katie called the hospital, and by the next day, and every day for a week, I was taking fluids to replace what I had lost.

Fortunately the diarrhea calmed down and the mouth sores healed, and I could start to eat and drink again. I was so out of it though, had Katie not been there, or not acted, I probably would have died in bed that weekend. I felt so horrible that I was ready for that to happen, and I would have been fine with it.

As it turned out, the initial treatment cured me of my disease, except for a couple of lymph nodes in my back that showed up on my scan. The treatment for that was more chemo. Initially the treatment shrunk the tumors, but after a couple of months the tumors stopped responding to the treatment and started to grow.

Having grown weary of Oregon City, we made the decision to return home. By this time I had been approved for long-term disability, and Katie's job - in addition to taking care of my every need - had taken a toll on her, and it was time to go. Of course it wasn't as easy as that. The stress of looking for a new job in the Sisters market didn't help matters, but she persevered and eventually found a job here working for a great company and an even better man.

Katie had to leave to start her job and I manned the household in Oregon City as best I could while she was gone. Luckily, I had recovered reasonably well at the time and didn't have any treatments left. Eventually the house there sold and we made the move back to our home here in Sisters.

The doctors at the Providence Oncology Clinic helped us locate a doctor for me here, and coordinated the transfer of all of my records. Having thought that my move here was basically to bide time until I croaked, much to my surprise my doctor here had other plans. I was eligible for immunotherapy, and it was thought that my type of cancer would respond well to the treatment. So far it has, but it has not all been smooth sailing.

Katie, of course had to coordinate the move back over here. We had our tenant moving out while we were moving in. She had scheduled to have appliances delivered and installed, clean the house, and prepare for the movers. All this before I even arrived.

In the six weeks that she was here before our house sold, Katie stayed with my daughter and my ex-wife at their house at Black Butte Ranch. Talk about a family affair? We had all gotten along for some time, particularly Katie and the ex, so Katie's staying with them seemed like the natural thing to do, and as it turned out they had a great time together.

Later, as I started having complications from my immunotherapy treatments, my ex-mother-in-law took me to a treatment as Katie had a work commitment she could not get out of.

Looking back, I just shake my head in amazement. I was always kinda surprised that anybody would fall in love with ME. That someone would go through this torture with me and not leave was even more amazing. For better or worse? Katie got a heapin', helpin' of worse to last a lifetime. Despite this illness, I'm a very lucky man. There is nothing like the love of a good woman. Especially one who will put up with everything that someone with cancer goes through.

I asked Katie not long ago what has been the most difficult part of dealing with my illness.

"The most difficult part of of this illness for a family member or a spouse is having to watch your loved one suffer and knowing there is really nothing you can do for them except try to make them as comfortable as you can, make sure they have a clean and sanitary space to be and let them know how much they mean to you and how much you love them. Unconditional love is a great salve."

Indeed it is.

Reader Comments

Posted: Wednesday, February 7, 2018
Article comment by: BRANDI CHAINEY

I am lucky enough to call Jim and Katie my friends. I am, and always will be, in awe of how the two of them have travelled this horrible path of cancer together. Katie is a true testament to unconditional love and has my utmost respect and admiration. As I have been apprised of Jim's progress it fills my heart with great happiness that he is winning this battle. I have never had a doubt that he would. I know these two beautiful warriors instill hope and courage in others who face this beast called cancer. Love, prayers and positive vibes to you, my friends.

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