CANCER WARRIOR OF THE MONTH
“We cannot all do great things, but we can do small things with great love. We shall never know all the good that a simple smile can do”. – Mother Theresa
Valentine’s Day holds many memories for people, but for this month’s Cancer Warrior, this day’s significance is particularly memorable – for on this day in 2013, he was handed a stage-4 colon cancer diagnosis. As the second month of the year brings us the symbol of love, we present one of the kindest and most loving men that you will ever meet, our February Cancer Warrior of the Month: Bill Ramey.
Growing up in a small town in central Indiana, Bill’s love story began when he proposed to his “bride-to-be”, Susan, only 34-days after their first meeting in October 1982 – and coincidentally, this year, they’ll be celebrating their 34th wedding anniversary. Having both grown up in loving families, they couldn’t wait to start a family of their own, but life oftentimes has other plans in store for us. Although they tried, Bill and Susan waited eleven years before “being blessed” with the birth of their daughter, Hannah, and on that day, when they both pledged to be involved parents in every aspect of Hannah’s life, they never imagined that 19-years later, Bill might not be able to keep that promise.
In February 2013, during Bill’s annual cardiologist check-up, his doctor was concerned by his pale appearance and ordered “stat” results on his blood work, which revealed hemoglobin levels at 7, down from the previous year level of 14. Within days of being removed from blood thinners, Bill experienced extreme dizziness, uncontrollable diarrhea, was unable to walk, and was taken by ambulance to the hospital. After a battery of inconclusive tests, a colonoscopy on February 14th revealed a large mass in the ascending colon near the cecum. At the age of 56, scans and an ensuing surgery confirmed that Bill Ramey had stage 4 colon cancer with metastasis to the liver. He was handed a terminal diagnosis with a 2-year timeline.
Informed that he was ineligible for a liver resection, Bill started his first chemotherapy treatment plan: six rounds of FOLFOX with Avastin. While awaiting approval and scheduling for his PET scan to evaluate the efficacy of this completed treatment, Bill’s spirits were very low as he was feeling defeated by his prognosis. He says: “I began feeling sorry for myself and lost all desire to do anything. After all, I had cancer and wasn’t expected to live much longer.” This is when he began searching on-line for cancer support groups and instead of dwelling on himself, Bill started helping others in every way that he possibly could. Then, to everyone’s surprise and delight, Bill’s PET scan revealed that the cancer was shrinking and was inactive. His treatment was changed to “maintenance chemo”: Xeloda with Avastin, and after three more months, there was no visible cancer. After being handed a terminal and inoperable cancer diagnosis with only 2-years of life to live, Bill Ramey was now deemed N.E.D. (No Evidence of Disease) in only 6-months.
Bill says: “Sometimes I don’t want to share my story. I feel like I haven’t paid my dues. I have never been sick and never had any pain. Treatment side effects have been minimal for me.” However, he realizes the power of his own story and how he can help others facing a similar diagnosis.
Bill is now co-administrator on four Facebook support pages: Stage IV Colon Cancer, Repurposed Drugs for Cancer, The Faces of Cancer, and My Parent Has Cancer. Through his own cancer journey, Bill has found his true purpose and life’s calling — to be open and forthcoming with his story in an attempt to give others hope in their lives, especially when they are afraid or in despair.
His endearing support to others, tireless devotion, and genuine friendship knows no bounds. Bill’s humility and kindness spreads steadfast hope to patients and caregivers, far and wide, and he can put a smile on anyone’s face. “I have made friends throughout the world who have shared so much of their lives with me and I am truly the one who is blessed.” To this day, now four years later, Bill remains on maintenance chemo and remains “N.E.D.” for 43-months and counting.
About that promise that Bill and his wife, Susan made to their daughter Hannah on the day she was born, Bill says: “Most important of all, I did live to see that precious gift from God graduate from Saint Joseph’s College, and on July 17, 2016, I had the honor and privilege of walking that beautiful girl down the aisle. Next major life milestone: grandchildren. No one is giving me a 2-year sentence.”
May this generous, caring, and truly wonderful Cancer Warrior enjoy continued good health as he extends his interminable support and uninhibited friendship to cancer patients and caregivers everywhere.
The Gloria Borges WunderGlo Foundation proudly honors Bill Ramey as our February Cancer Warrior of the Month. Together, we bring awareness, support, hope, and smiles to patients and families, while always workings towards “the cure” of colorectal cancer.
Cancer, Your Time Is Up!