Kenny Williams is thankful he finally went to the hospital in May 2011 after not feeling well for a few months.
All it took was a nudge from his wife Amber.
“She said, ‘You’re either going to the hospital or you’re moving out,’” Kenny recalled Friday at Effingham County’s Relay For Life to benefit the American Cancer Society.
Kenny acknowledged he was worried what doctors might tell him. His grandfather was diagnosed with colon cancer at age 36 and succumbed to it in 2006, and shortly thereafter Kenny’s aunt, uncle and grandmother all learned they had cancer.
“With his family history, he knew something was wrong,” Amber said. “He said, ‘I know they’re going to tell me I have cancer.’”
Kenny was in fact diagnosed with colon cancer, at just 31 years old. His tumor was the size of a softball, but, fortunately, the cancer had not spread to other parts of his body.
“The doctor said it was like somebody’s hand had wrapped around my tumor,” Kenny said.
Kenny has undergone three surgeries, as well as aggressive chemotherapy known as “full fury.” He received 12 rounds of chemo over six months.
As Kenny’s doctors told him, “You’re young, you can take it. We’re going to go with everything we can possibly give you.”
While Kenny’s treatments have been successful, he still has a long road ahead. He has been unable to return to work in the two years since his cancer diagnosis, and at some point he will need surgery to remove the chemotherapy port implanted under his skin. Doctors have left the port in, out of concern that Kenny’s cancer could still spread to his lungs.
Through it all, Kenny has remained positive. He said he “went in smiling and left smiling” on every visit to Memorial University Medical Center’s Anderson Cancer Institute.
“I smiled all the way through it because I’m not going to let it put me down,” he said. “Everything goes to God. He’s the one who wrapped his hand around my tumor.”
Kenny, Amber and their young children Brascher and Alyssa participated in Effingham’s Relay For Life for the first time last year, and Kenny says they will continue to every year. This year they walked not only for Kenny’s cancer fight but also in memory of his friend Bryan Morris, who died Jan. 5 from colon cancer.
Kenny had been by Bryan’s side for his doctor’s appointments, keeping him company during the day-long chemotherapy sessions by watching movies or just talking. One day Bryan asked, “How did you get through this?”
The answer was simple: “Fight hard and smile often.” Kenny reiterated that advice when he shared his story Friday during the Relay opening ceremony.
“I always thought of it as a battle,” Kenny said. “You have to go in there thinking, ‘I’m going to beat this thing.’ You cannot give up.”