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DeKok relives being told several times he was dying from cancer

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DeKok relives being told several  times he was dying from cancer

Retired career National Guardsman and former Ripon volunteer ambulance driver Bill DeKok told Ripon Rotarians Wednesday noon how his faith and prayers from supporters got him through several bouts ...

GLENN KAHL/The Bulletin

POSTED September 27, 2012 10:23 p.m.

RIPON - A soft-spoken man of faith – retired National Guardsman Bill DeKok – told Rotarians Wednesday noon how he had survived a death sentence from pancreatic cancer.

It was six and a half years ago when the former Ripon volunteer ambulance driver retired from a military career and soon learned he had the dread terminal disease.  He had been working a rototiller near his home when he was hit in the mid-section with excruciating pain.  

DeKok’s  wife had driven him to a hospital emergency room in Modesto where he was kept longer than he had expected for tests he didn’t understand until a doctor appeared at his bedside.

“The doctor looked at me and said, ‘Cancer.’”

He told me the bottom line was that I had only a few months left and I needed to go home and get things in order.  The following day hel underwent a biopsy and surgery was scheduled for Friday that same week.

After the surgeon reviewed the scans that had been taken, he quipped, “No can do!” 

DeKok was sent next to U.C. Davis where he was again scheduled for surgery and taken to the operating room.  Within a half hour he was back in his room.  The surgeon at Davis told him the surgery would be “too complicated” since a major blood vessel went through the center of the large tumor.

He remembered that surgeon being “a very compassionate man” with tears in his eyes telling him to go home and find an oncologist.

DeKok said he had an excellent support system from the military and from his church community.

The next possible solution was a holistic treatment center in Reno where a doctor told him they could only build up his immune system and were not able to perform a miracle with his tumor.  DeKok began a chemo regimen the next day and months later was feeling pretty good, telling his wife, “If this is dying, it’s not too bad.” 

But the tumor continued to grow and he was sent to Stanford for further treatment.

“They told me to stop the chemo and also the radiation because there was no known cure,” he said.  In the next year the tumor had grown significantly that he had described as being as big as a softball.

DeKok’s wife, meanwhile, had surgery for a non-related problem which brought him face to face with her surgeon.  The doctor asked to see his records, calling his colleagues nationwide for their input.  They had all agreed they couldn’t do anything.

Shortly thereafter he got a call out of the blue from a surgeon who said he could help,  telling his wife that she was actually close to being a widow.

That doctor had worked with surgeons in Scotland in socialized medicine.  He had been involved in pancreatic cancer surgeries for several years learning procedures that he had not been taught in the United States.

The surgery was a success but there were other problems that came to light in the liver and the gall bladder three months later.

After regaining his strength and being back at home in Ripon, he again felt ill and went to Stanford again.  A CAT scan revealed a huge mass in the liver.  He said he went home and became so sick that his wife thought he was going to go soon.

“It turned out to be fluid on the liver – not cancer,” he said. 

But another scan showed cancer in the lymph nodes, he added, again just a matter of time.  His doctor told him she had what had been an experimental drug that had recently been approved for pancreatic cancer, she would like to use as a possible cure.

He lauded the drug trials that made the new medication a chance of life possible for him that volunteers had already tested, along with placebos, in blind studies.

“Right now there is no cancer showing up anywhere in my body,” DeKok said.

He further explained that after researching vitamin supplements at length,  he has been taking hands full to keep up his immune system – “that keeps me going,” he said.

And more importantly he continues to be ever thankful for those who continually prayed for him throughout his traumatic experiences where he, too, had to have faith.

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