World Cancer Day | Portrait of a Friend’s Experience
Cancer affects all of our lives, whether through a friend or family member or because we’ve had cancer ourselves. That’s why we’re supporting World Cancer Day, which aims to inspire others to take action as communities and as individuals. Cancer is a diverse disease, and it affects everyone differently too. Today, we zoom in on a close friend of the AMSkier family, an active community member, a lover of basketball and a Cancer survivor.
Spencer Williams is fun, upbeat and positive. He’s the kind of person that makes others feel welcome in social situations and is well-liked by everyone that meets him. A few years ago, Spencer noticed that something wasn’t quite right. He went to a local doctor and was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease. After going through Crohn’s disease treatment for about a year, and not feeling any positive change, Spencer decided to get a second opinion from a Crohn’s Disease specialist. Listen to his personal recollection of his experience.
(Audio Summary: Spencer learns that he does not have Crohn’s Disease, but that he actually had stomach cancer.)
Spencer continued, noting how stomach cancer isn’t normally screened for in the United States. Because of this, stomach cancer is not typically found in the early stages. Spencer attributed his early detection to the biopsy done by the specialist and his thoroughness.
When Spencer was diagnosed, he experienced what he described as an “eerie calm” after hearing the news as well as some anger, confusion, and frustration later in the process. Like many people, Spencer wanted to know what might have caused his cancer. According to his doctor, his cancer was not caused by genetics or environmental factors; certainly a mind-boggling concept for anyone who likes feeling they have some amount of control over their health.
Spencer had a total gastrectomy, which eliminates the stomach as a holding cell and connects the esophagus directly to the small intestine.
When asked about his support network, Spencer had some valuable pieces of advice that he learned from a friend who went through something similar. Here is a clip of what his friend Bob told him, and what Spencer now tells others.
(Audio Summary: Assemble a small team of close friends and family. Help them understand your needs as you go through this process and put yourself first.)
Since Spencer’s total gastrectomy, he goes back and gets tested every 6 months. Fortunately, he has had a clean bill of health for a couple years, and we wish and hope that this good news continues. Spencer will tell you that having had cancer changes you and tweaks your outlook. Listen to his reflections below:
We hope this moment with Spencer gives you some insight and perspective when it comes surviving cancer as an affected family member, friend or as a cancer patient. Although cancer alters your life, it doesn’t need to take over your life. Spencer is so much more than a cancer survivor. Recently, Spencer participated in Coaches vs Cancer, helping to raise over $5,000 for the Northeastern, PA chapter. He’s also still the upbeat, fun-loving, outgoing person he has always been. In an effort to do better in our cancer prevention efforts as a community and as individuals, please visit World Cancer Day’s website.
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