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Williams: laugh with cancer
Ralph Williams remembers the day - eight years ago - that he learned that he had cancer.

"I remember I was hit with nausea in the doctor's office," said Williams. The news hit as hard as a death sentence. His doctor told him that he had multiple myloma (a type of bone marrow cancer) and that 80 percent of those diagnosed with the disease die within five years.

"I figure I'd be dead by now. So far I'm way ahead of the game," noted the Ceres resident, now is a 71-year-old cancer survivor.

He's undergone surgeries, chemotherapy and radiation but mostly credits several other reasons for being around.

"First is my faith in God, second comes my wife. Three, I like to tell jokes."

Today Ralph hands out red cards with the word CANCER printed at large at the top, followed by this: "One Man's Journey, Ralph Williams, Saomwth" and his phone number. The cards are his way of getting out the word that he wants to talk to anyone needing a pep talk about beating cancer. He especially likes speaking to both large and small gatherings. When they ask what "Saomwth" is he tells them it stands for "Saved And On My Way To Heaven."

"Humor is a big part of recovery," said the Las Casitas Mobilehome Park resident. "I'm a volunteer with Optima Hospice and when people are sick and close to dying, humor is one of the best things."

Williams uses humor - even laughs about his illness - to draw people out of themselves. For example, he makes light of the fact that he's always fallen short of being 6 feet tall but because he lost the C-7 vertabra in his neck due to cancer, he lost and inch and a half in height.

He also feels it's important for cancer patients to plan for the future, "expecting that you'll have a future."

Williams likes speaking to church groups and cancer recovery groups. He is a familiar face at the Cancer Support Group at Doctors Medical Center in Modesto. It meets every Thursday from 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. in the DMC Conference Center.

"It's real important to belong to a support group," he said.

A member of Faith Christian Center on Rumble Road in Modesto, Williams said he's been a Christian many years but became a stronger one through his illness.

"I feel like I'm trusting more in the Lord. I see my life in two parts, BC and AC, or 'Before Cancer' and 'After Cancer.'"

He holds onto the examples of faith found in Hebrews 11. Williams also used the Matthew 6:34 scripture that says, "Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."

Williams still receives chemotherapy for his cancer but he says he's not worried and that his Palo Alto doctor tells him that if he takes care of himself he might die of something other than cancer.

"I got over being anxious," he said. "I read the Bible and pray instead."

Since cancer is so prevalent in society, he has words of advice to those who know of cancer victims: Continue being their friend.

"Most cancer victims do not want to be shunned. But some people don't know how to talk to those with cancer."

Williams came to Modesto in 1967 and worked at the Riverbank Army Ammunition Depot until he became a licensed vocational nurse before he retired.

"I want to try to help others if I can."

Williams may be reached at 499-0903.