Linda Williams

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Her advice: Don’t let it get you down. Stand up and fight.

Linda Williams of Lindale said she’d never forget the doctor’s words: “You have cancer.”

“It was the most shocking, scariest thing you’ve ever heard in your whole life,” she said of that day in 2006. “The nurse walks back in and says, ‘Are you OK?’ and I’m thinking, ‘Are you crazy? No, I’m not OK!’ You go out to the parking lot and you just cry. You cry terribly because you’re scared, scared that you won’t live for your children, for your husband.”

It had begun with the discovery of a small lump in her breast that was not thought to be malignant. But her physician wanted to check and be sure. An imaging test and a needle biopsy showed it was indeed cancer. But she was confident in the physicians of the ETMC Cancer Institute: “The doctors here at ETMC are wonderful. They really care about you. They want you to get well.” She began a regimen of chemotherapy followed by radiation treatment.

“During chemo they say you go a little crazy,” said Williams, and maybe that explains what happened when she put on her wig – even though it felt itchy – and went to her first cattle auction.

Auction surprise

“I only went because my husband was down in Mexico buying cows, so I thought I’d go to see what was going on,” she said. “I was talking to a cowboy and would reach up to scratch my head. Well, to my surprise, I was bidding! By the time the auction was over, I had bought eight baby calves.

“It was amazing. I stood up and they said, ‘The lady up there has eight calves down here!’ I had never even driven a trailer. I didn’t know how to pick them up.”

She went home for the trailer, drove back and got help loading the animals. It was a surprise for her husband, but he took it in stride.

“I took them home and had to bottle-feed eight baby calves during my chemo and radiation. Then I had two baby horses born! So I had 10 little mouths to feed. Which was a blessing, because I really didn’t have time to think about cancer, chemo and radiation or the hurt and pain. I was too busy to know I was sick.”

That was a tough time, she recalled.

“Every morning, before I went to chemo, I was stirring the hot milk for the calves and horses, which irritated my arm and made it red with blisters. Neighbors would say, ‘Why are you doing this?’ but I had to feed those babies so they would survive. And they did.”

She thought of her battle with cancer as like being on a train chugging through a long tunnel. “There was a light at the tunnel, and I could see the light, and all I had to do was get to it. And I did,” she said.

Finished with treatment

In August 2006 she finished with her treatment. The cancer has not returned. “It’s over with for me. When people say, ‘You’re in remission,’ I say no – I don’t have it anymore. It’s gone.”

The journey left Williams unsettled, and she found another outlet by going back to school and becoming a real estate agent. Later she missed her daily life of being with her animals and eventually went back to the farm.

content-first-person-williams-3Today Williams finds comfort through the ETMC support groups that meet twice monthly. The groups consist of East Texans with different types of cancer they get together to talk about their lives, their remission and whatever they are concerned about at the time.

“We talk about our lives, how we’re feeling, our children, our grandchildren … just our lives in general.”

Williams also attends the ETMC Great Getaway cancer retreat held each spring. The three-day camp gives cancer survivors a chance to relax and refocus and provides opportunities for meeting others who share some of the same concerns associated with living with cancer.

Regina Davis, director of the ETMC Breast Center, praised the cancer retreat.

“This is a chance to get away from the stress of day-to-day life and enjoy the company of others who have been through similar experiences,” she said. “Healthcare professionals, as well as cancer survivors, are on hand to assist with retreat activities.”

Williams said she’s just happy to be alive and to assist cancer patients.

“I try to help others who are going through something similar to what I faced. I try to be uplifting at all times. I want to be 101 years old and still cooking dinner. I thank the Lord for getting me through this, as well as the doctors at ETMC and Dr. Arielle Lee at Tyler Hematology-Oncology.

“You have to get on with life and enjoy it. Just stand up and fight and don’t let cancer get you down. Just know you can beat it. You just have to stand up and fight.”

content-first-person-williams-2Go to the ETMC Breast Care Services page.