Full court press: NBA executive’s fight against cancer
Pat Williams, vice-president and co-founder of the Orlando Magic, looks like the perfect picture of health. It’s not obvious that for the past year, the 72-year-old has been battling cancer.
Williams, a best-selling author of nearly 80 books, motivational speaker and a marathoner who’s completed nearly 60 races, said, “I like the odds; I am going to beat this,” when told by his doctors that his chances were 70 to 75 percent.
Williams and his wife Ruth are the parents of 19 adult children, including 14 who were adopted from four different countries. But, he faced his toughest challenge in 2011 when he received his diagnosis of multiple myeloma.
“I’ve got a lot more life to live,” said Williams. “I’ve got more books to write, more speeches to give and all my grandchildren to educate.”
Multiple myeloma is a cancer that starts in the plasma cells of the bone marrow. Marrow is the soft spongy tissue found inside most bones that helps manufacture the blood and plasma cells that help the body fight infection by producing proteins called antibodies. If left untreated, multiple myeloma can lead to life-threatening infections.
According to the American Cancer Society, in 2013, there were about 22,350 new cases of multiple myeloma in the U.S. and approximately 10,710 deaths per year; however, the lifetime risk of getting multiple myeloma is one in 149.
“With the introduction of novel chemotherapeutic agents, the prognosis for patients diagnosed with multiple myeloma has greatly improved,” said Dr. Robert N. Stein, hematologist at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, Ill. “Many patients now have the opportunity to live long, productive lives.”
In addition to chemotherapy, other common treatments for the disease are radiation therapy, bone marrow transplantation and the use of different medications – some that help bone marrow produce healthy blood cells and others that strengthen the immune system.
Complications of the treatments can include broken bones, infections and – in the toughest cases – paralysis, Dr. Stein said.
Williams’ care team says his prognosis is good and they feel confident about his future.
(Photos courtesy of the Orlando Magic press office.)
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