For James Williams, things in 1999 were, as he puts it, "Going great." His daughter was a cheerleader in high school. His son was living in his first apartment. He and wife JoAnn were looking forward to (and planning) his retirement, which was just a few short years away. And other than a sore shoulder from an old baseball injury, James thought he was in good health.
It was in the grocery store where James first thought there may be something wrong. He decided to stick his arm in a blood pressure machine. When he read how high the number was, he knew it had to be a mistake. "I thought, 'Well, this machine is off,' " James says.
The next day, James went to the doctor. X-rays were taken. James says, "He put it on the wall and lit it up, and there it was – the size of a softball. Then I asked him, 'What am I going to do now?' "
James saw a series of doctors locally. "At first, they told us they could handle it and take care of it here," JoAnn says. "But after they saw the location of the tumor, they told us he only had six to 18 months." JoAnn wasn't going to accept that. And on the advice of several friends, she told James they should try MD Anderson.
Treatment from MD Anderson
"The location of James' lung cancer was very uncommon. And it's an especially difficult area because of the surrounding vertebrae and the nerves and arteries," explains James' doctor, Stephen Swisher. "He came to us for a second opinion, and we felt that with our expertise and because of our collaboration with neurosurgery that the tumor could be removed."
James waited until his grandson, Coltin Williams, was born and then had the surgery. "It was an 8 1/2-hour surgery. And every two hours, a nurse would come talk to me about how he was doing," JoAnn says. "They even asked how I was doing."
"They saved him," JoAnn says. "The people at MD Anderson, they are basically … amazing," says James, who has been cancer-free almost 10 years now.
Today, life is going great again. James is volunteering at his local hospital and loves to play baseball with Coltin Williams, who is now 9. And although he hasn't retired yet, James and JoAnn always find plenty of time to travel. "We just got back from Cozumel, and also recently traveled to New York," James says. "We're enjoying life. And we owe it all to MD Anderson."