Bill Walters has no doubt about why he is here.
“I guess I have a view that, we’re here on earth to help each other,” he said. “Whether it’s feeding the hungry or clothing the naked or housing the homeless, we ought to be doing something.”
Walters, 73, lives that conviction every day.
He serves on the board of Brown County Habitat for Humanity and volunteers on building projects. He is on the church council for Nashville United Methodist Church. He serves with his wife, Ann, on the board of the We Care Gang in Nashville.
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“And then the rest of it’s wherever I see need,” he said.
Here to help
With his prostate cancer in remission, Walters understands the importance of the support given by friends, family and fellow survivors when someone is dealing with cancer.“I think, when you learn of someone who has any type of cancer — we’ve got another friend who has been diagnosed with prostate cancer, and we’ve talked,” Walters said. “I’ve talked to him about my journey. He’s just in the early stages of his journey, and his is more severe.”
When his radiation treatments began in January, Walters had friends to lean on who had traveled his same path.
“We talked about different options, different treatments,” Walters said. “I’ve got two friends that I used to work with when I worked in (the Department of Natural Resources). Both have prostate cancer.
“One just went through 42 treatments. He got his after I got mine, so I was able to be kind of helpful to him, explaining what I went through,” Walters said.
And there was support closer to home as well, from his wife.
“We’ve been married 51 years, so, we don’t have secrets, and we’ve gone through certain things health-wise, and you just share ‘em,” Walters said.
“She read all the material I had and had her questions, and I had mine. She went with me to the appointments so she could hear what the doctors were saying.”
“I think there are a lot more people who are in much worse shape health-wise,” Walters said. “Mine compared, it’s nothing.”Walters’ journey started with his regular physical — a practice he advocates for everyone.“When you get to be 50 or older, you ought to have your PSA (Prostate-Specific Antigen) checked every year, because if a man lives long enough, he’s probably going to get prostate cancer,” Walters said.
Due to a rising PSA, Walters had a biopsy in 2012, but no cancer was found.
In 2013, a second biopsy showed cancer in one of 12 samples taken.
After consultation, Walters opted for “watchful waiting.” Then in October of last year, a third biopsy showed cancer in three samples.
Walters decided to go with external beam radiation over the other options of surgery or implanting radioactive “seeds.”
The first appointment took three hours, as he was moved from machine to machine and from test to test. He received “target” tattoos for use in his radiation treatments.
Doctors also placed gold targets on the prostate itself during a separate procedure, leading to a joke between the couple.
“So I come home and I tell Ann, ‘Now listen, when I die, you make sure you get the gold out of there.’ Without missing a beat, she said, ‘Well, that gives a whole new meaning to the family jewels.’
“So, we got good chuckles out of that as we shared that with our friends.”
Walters had 42 radiation sessions, each lasting about an hour from walking in the door to walking out. He went to Columbus Regional Hospital five days a week.
“You take off your pants and shoes. You leave everything else on,” he said. “They give you a towel so you can cover your underpants, and you lay down on this table.”
Lasers are used to target the radiation beam, and the whole process takes around 20 minutes, Walters said.
For the most part he had few problems from the radiation treatment. Though he did have to halt treatment at one point due to sensitivity to the radiation, and he received small radiation burns, which he compared to a sunburn.
Walters knew there was risk of side effects, such as incontinence. However, he approached the possibility with characteristic levity.
“When you get to my age, you don’t pass a bathroom up anyway,” he said.
Most of all, Walters expresses gratitude.While he was going through his treatment, he also was in charge of fundraising on the steering committee for the new Helping Hands building, a joint project between Habitat for Humanity and Mother’s Cupboard at the Brown County Fairgrounds.The other committee members adjusted the meeting schedule to his treatment schedule.
“So, we met at noon so I could be there, which they were very nice to do,” he said.
Walters also understands how fortunate he was to have his cancer caught in the early stages.
“Well, if it had metastasized, you know, you’d be going into chemo and hormone treatment and a lot of other things, and it might not have been so —
“My sister in law — my wife’s brother’s wife — her brother just died of prostate cancer,” Walters said. “And it was only diagnosed, like, two months before he passed away, but it had metastasized. In fact, I’m not even sure he got to the first treatment, and he’s 10 years younger than I am.”
Yet, Walters does not dwell on cancer or on his health, other than going for his regular checkups, he said.
“I think our health is very precious and we need to do everything that we can to take care of it,” he said. “But at the same time, I recognize that we have finite lives, and at some point, something is going to cause us all to die.
“I’m 73 years old, and I’ve been blessed with a wonderful life, wonderful family, and, when the time comes, the time comes,” he said. “But that doesn’t mean I’m going to stop taking care of my body as much as I can.”
Wife: Ann Walters
Children: Don Walters and wife Lisa; Sarah Roberts and husband CJ
Grandchildren: Olivia Roberts and another due in January
Cancer type: Prostate