My friend Bill Turnbull needs help. He has an aggressive cancerous tumor that is rapidly growing in his throat. I want to share his story here and ask for your help. But first, before I get into all of the details, can I ask that you stop reading for a moment and pray for him. You see, we believe in the power of prayer. You probably don't know him, but a simple prayer right now would be greatly appreciated.
Now back to Bill's situation. My name is Scott and a couple weeks ago, I asked Bill if he would allow me to put up a GoFundMe page for him to help with his situation and fight against cancer. I would do anything for him and he gladly agreed to the assistance. I'll be honest though, I have been a bit apprehensive about writing this, as I was not sure what to write or how it would all sound...or if I could do a decent job for my friend. Anyhow, enough about my fears, Bill and his family are who we should be focusing on.
Bill is one of my best friends. I have known him for about 25 years now. Bill is married to a wonderful woman named Ellen and they have two daughters that they adopted when they were both infants. Catherine (Cat) recently graduated from High School, while Ella is still in High School. Ellen is a part time school teacher's assistant for special needs children. She is an old soul and if you ever have the chance to meet her, she will forever change your life with her first hug to you. Bill is an amazing husband, father, brother and friend. He has an amazing sense of humor and he can keep you laughing in stitches for hours. Needless to say, Bill has tried to keep a positive attitude going through this ordeal...but I know it is really wearing on him.
About a year ago in October of 2016, Bill kept getting a sore throat. It would come and go for the next few weeks and finally in the beginning of November 2016 he went into his local Urgent Care to be have it checked out. They recommended that he go to an ENT doctor to have it checked out. Naturally, the earliest appointment he could get was a couple weeks later and they diagnosed him with Acid Reflux.
Ok...so let's set the stage here a moment. Here it is a year ago at the beginning of the holiday season. Bill or Billy as I call him keeps getting this nasty sore throat and they tell him that it's acid reflux. Now let me tell you that Billy is a "people person" he loves to talk and has a fun, outgoing and caring personality. He loves to eat great pizza, sushi and absolutely loves hot and spicy foods! Acid reflux does not mix well here. The sore throats are so painful that he tries everything the doctors prescribe to him. He changed his diet completely...took all the meds, did the treatments but nothing was getting any better. This is really starting to be a downer for him.
Bill kept doing what the doctors were telling him to do for the Acid Reflux...but on March 23, 2017 it was so bad that he finally had to go to the Emergency Room. While in the ER, they ran some tests and found that he did not have Acid Reflux after all! He had a tumor at the base of his tongue in the back of his throat. This tumor was pushing on the nerves and vocal cords in his throat and causing so much pain for him. It was also causing his speech to become unintelligible. After a biopsy, it was also determined that the tumor is malignant.
What? Tumor? Malignant? What the heck is going on? Billy never smoked in his life. He enjoyed good foods and the occasional beer or glass of wine, but always ate a pretty healthy diet. How could this happen? On one hand there is this relief that they finally know what the real problem is and now maybe the can finally get Billy some help. On the other hand... it's cancer! Each day that goes by, it's getting worse and worse. Billy could not talk any more because the tumor was pressing on his vocal cords so much and because it was so painful when he did try to talk. This wasn't good. Billy loves to talk to people (and loves to joke with people) and now he can't. Billy was working as a recruiter for a healthcare staffing company when all of this happened. He had a passion for talking to travel nurses and putting them on travel contracts. Now all of that had to come to a screeching halt. In pain all day and not being able to talk...doesn't make for a good nurse recruiter. Which also means no income. :-(
So...back to his diagnosis.
After several doctors appointments, PET Scans, a digestive feeding tube implanted and mold of his head and neck area that was custom made for him, Billy was ready to win this year's Halloween costume contest! At least he still had his sense of humor. But seriously, over the next few months he would have to undergo 3 courses of chemotherapy and 35 radiation sessions simultaneously. This course of treatment would wipe him out so bad that he was barely coherent some days. He could no longer swallow and had to be fed through the tube that was surgically implanted into his stomach. I would get periodic text messages from him and I knew how much he was suffering. No longer able to talk, eat or drink anything and still in pain from the radiation and a fog from the Chemo, he was depressed. His wife and kids were doing everything they could for him yet they all felt helpless in this nightmare that they were all going through.
Finally the Chemo and Radiation are over! We all couldn't wait for the last dose of Chemo and the last radiation appointment to be done. Now was the waiting game to see if it all worked! What would the outcome be? Did they get it all? Was the tumor gone? Or was it at least small enough to surgically remove without taking his entire tongue out?
He was told that they would have to wait awhile before they could do a scan to see how large (or small) the tumor was. He was also told that the effects of the radiation would continue to work well beyond the last treatment in shrinking the tumor. It was a tough waiting game...but at least there were no more treatments to endure. Slowly, day by day he was able to get a little relief and finally was able to drink a glass of water! Oh...the little things in life...right! OMG... he could drink a glass of water. I felt so bad for Billy. One minute he is having sushi with his daughter, the next he is excited that he is able to drink a glass of water again.
Oh...but the pain! The pain was supposed to be getting better. But it wasn't. What did that mean? Was it just taking longer than usual? What prognosis would the doctors have for him? They said it was a Thrush infection in his throat and they could treat it. They eventually did do some more tests and another PET scan and they said that the tumor was smaller and that they could now remove it surgically. OK... so surgery now was an option. What exactly did that mean and shouldn't you get a second opinion on all of this?
So...rather than give you all of the drama and nitty gritty details, Billy sought out a second opinion at another Medical Center. The doctor he saw spent alot of time with him and wanted to treat him. However, Bill's insurance would not cover any services out of network. Bill is on a Health Plan via Medi-cal. Additionally, another PET scan showed that the tumor is actually getting larger again. His only course of treatment at this point is surgery now. It's scheduled for December 11, 2017.
I'm told his surgery will take approximately 10-12 hours and they will have to remove a large portion of his tongue and try to reconstruct it with some muscle from his thigh. He will forever lose his ability to taste once he recovers. Recovery will include a trache tube for a least a month and could take up to 3 months to get him back on his feet.
Grrr... I'm on my first glass of wine now that I write this and I'm fighting back the tears. I'm worried about Billy's surgery and how it will turn out for him. He texted me earlier and told me how it's such an awkward feeling for him right now. The pain he is in is incredible and the amount of pain killers he has to take right now would probably put you or me in a coma. He is scared of what will happen and yet is desperately counting down the days and looking forward while also dreading the actual date of the surgery.
Let me wrap this up for now. The first and most important thing we need is your prayer. The next thing we really need from you is to share this with your network of friends and family. I don't pretend to know why you are reading this...but I hope you are. I hope you share this story on every social media site that you are a part of. I hope your friends, family and associates of any kind will pray for my friend. And then, I'm hoping you will donate to help him. Billy's financial situation right now is grim. They can use anything that you can afford to donate. I'm not good at asking people for money...but I would do anything for my friend. So... I'm asking you to help me help him.
I'll be doing some regular updates to this page and focusing on different things about Billy, his family, his personality and his journey through this. I'm not sure how this all works...but hopefully I have touched you in some way and can count on you to help.
Let me do a quick recap:
1: Please say a prayer for Bill Turnbull (pray a lot please)
2: Please share this with your network.
3: Please donate... a little or a lot...whatever you can do.
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