By Valerie Werkmeister
Living in a small community may have its disadvantages at times. For instance, everyone knows everyone, their kids and others’ business.
Then again, these are the very things that tightly weave a community together. When someone in a small community is hurting, the whole community hurts and rallies for support.
When Kim and Jerry Williams’ learned of Jerry’s cancer diagnosis, their world began to spin. This is not the kind of news a person likes to hear from their doctor, “It’s cancer.” The only other statement that’s worse than those words is the response to questions about the type or stage and where it is – “We don’t know.”
That’s what cancer does. It tries to take control and make its victims and families struggling with this disease feel powerless. But, the Williams’ family of Poseyville has already learned the power of a small, tight-knit community when one of its own is in need of help.
When Jerry heard those very words, ‘it’s cancer’, from a team of doctors at Indiana University Medical Center in Indianapolis, he and his wife, Kim, of 25 years were surrounded with their children, Drake, an eighth grade student at North Posey Junior High and Tanner, 20, along with Jerry’s family. Simultaneously, the Poseyville community held their breath and sent up prayers as it waited back home to hear what was wrong. Kim’s Facebook postings kept everyone informed.
The nightmare began when Jerry started having right shoulder blade pain. He was initially treated for a pinched nerve, but the pain radiated around his side to his chest. An MRI, done locally, revealed disturbing results.
Jerry’s specialist, Dr. Kwo is a medical doctor in the liver transplant, gastroenterology/hepatolgy division at I.U. Medical Center. The two have a special connection as Dr. Kwo has treated Jerry for many years. Jerry travels to IU on an annual basis for check-ups.
Dr. Kwo reassured the Williams’ that local doctors may not be accustomed to Jerry’s liver and he ordered the test results to be sent to him.
Unfortunately, after Dr. Kwo reviewed the results, his concern did not dissipate. Instead, he ordered Jerry to gather his family and head to IU. They had determined there is a large mass in the center of his chest, on the right lobe of his lung anterior to his liver and heart. A biopsy confirmed the cancer.
They were somewhat shocked that the cancer does not involve Jerry’s liver. He was born with a very rare liver disease known as, congenital hepatic fibrosis. The disease was discovered when he was just 10 years old and at the time, Jerry was one of only 3 other known cases. Jerry’s liver is even more rare in that it still functioned, stunning his doctors. The other children with the same disease were not as lucky, their livers had failed.
In Jerry’s case, his body had found a way to overcome. Jerry explained the nature of the disease.
“The portal vein that supplies the liver with blood, well the fibrosis squeezes the liver cutting off the blood flow. In my case, the spleen did the job of the liver. I have an enlarged spleen.”
At the age of 12, Jerry underwent surgery in which doctors placed a temporary shunt in to regain normal liver function. Jerry said his doctors joked that they had, ‘fixed it like an 80-year-old wino.’ What they didn’t expect, is that it is still functioning to this day.
Until further tests are run, the Williams’ do not know the extent of Jerry’s cancer. Dr. Kwo has described it as a very aggressive type of cancer, “it is like an angry pit bull,” he said. Dr. Kwo assured the Williams’ this was not evident during Jerry’s last trip to I.U. in May 2012.
“He kept telling us that saying, ‘you do understand, this was not here in May 2012,’” Kim said.
On Friday, they learned the name of the type of cancer Jerry has – adenocarcinoma. They are awaiting further instructions from his doctor as to what the next step will be.
In the meantime, the Poseyville community has already rallied to Jerry’s side. Jerry will only receive a fraction of his pay while on short-term disability from his employer, A & A Metal Products in Evansville, where he works as an automation engineer.
The small business has been very supportive and has assured the Williams’ that he will continue to receive all of his insurance benefits.
However, the Williams’ worry about bills they will be unable to continue to pay while Jerry is on short-term disability. Kim decided to try to help ease their financial burden by tapping into her crafty, creative and resourceful nature. She recently opened a small booth, “Junk in my Trunk,” at Traderbaker’s Flea Market in Evansville. She has found many vintage or other items to re-purpose, repaint and sell. Old window frames, painted wine bottles, re-purposed cabinet doors as chalkboards and creating furniture from wood pallets are just a few of the items Kim has created. Pictures of her booth set-up and creations can be found on Facebook under the booth name. Now that Jerry’s treatments will take them to Indianapolis, she worries that they may have to close the booth and in turn, lose their home.
The Williams’ also possess a unique and deep love for one another that is obvious to all who meet or know them. The two are self-described soul mates who do everything together.
“We can’t function without each other. We are so in love and we have just been one of those couples who do absolutely everything together,” Kim said.
Their strong faith and they love they share are shining examples of what strong marriages are built on.
The two are widely known in the community as Jerry has coached the youth in basketball, baseball and soccer since Tanner was in second grade. Kim has also volunteered for many school events and served as the Scholastic Book Fair chairperson at North Elementary for several years. They are regular attendees of Drake’s sports games and enjoy cheering for all of the Vikings’ teams. Drake’s AAU Basketball team surprised the Williams family this past weekend by donning shirts with the saying, “Team Williams” on the back. It is a testament to how Jerry’s journey will proceed – as a team effort.
The AAU basketball team parents are in the process of planning various fundraisers to help aide the Williams family. A bank account is being established at Fifth Third Bank in Poseyville under the name, Benefit for Jerry Williams.
“The reaction from the community has been overwhelming and great. Everyone has been so supportive. It makes us feel like we are one big family,” Jerry said.
“Neither one of us grew up here and everyone has always just welcomed us and accepted us with open arms,” they added. “We just can’t say enough about how grateful we are for all of the support.”
By Valerie Werkmeister
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