By Sherri Coner
A couple of days after a cancerous tumor was removed from Bill Ramey’s colon, he told the oncologist that he expected to be cancer-free in a few months.
But the oncologist relayed that Ramey had stage 4 colon cancer. The cancer had metastasized in 17 areas of Ramey’s liver. His condition was inoperable and incurable.
Life for this lanky guy who loves to tease and joke was reduced to two and one half years at best.
Ramey was 53 when he heard that news on Valentine’s Day in 2013.
Deflated, Ramey returned home, feeling shell-shocked.
He started a journal to one day be shared with his only child, Hannah Lefever, a college student at the time, who came home a lot more frequently after learning that her dad was seriously ill.
Because doctors suggested that his union job, installing ceramic tile, would be too strenuous while he underwent chemotherapy, Ramey found himself retiring and then filing for disability.
After his wife, Susan, left for work every day, he sat alone in the empty house. He no longer had a job, a routine, a purpose. He had no idea how to face a good-bye so early in the life he assumed would last many more years.
“Then one day I just said to myself, ‘You’ve got cancer. There’s not a thing you can do about it.’ Then I said, ‘God, I can’t do this. It is in your hands. Show me what to do.’ ”
A few minutes later, to pass the time, Ramey accidentally found a Facebook group called Faces of Cancer on his computer.
He read posts by adults of all ages from all over the country. They were like Ramey, struggling sometimes to be strong and sharing positive news when they had some.
These people he knew by name only were trying to participate in life even when chemotherapy made them exhausted and nauseous. They were trying to hold on to their lives for as long as possible.
And they were reaching out to whoever was also sitting at a computer in that same moment, watching their own days dwindle.
“That’s when I found my purpose,” Ramey said. “I found people who needed me.”
Ramey found the routine that he needed. He serves as the co-administrator for four cancer-related Facebook groups. He attends a support group for people living with cancer called First Monday at the IU Simon Cancer Center. He has made many visits to hospitals to support friends in the Facebook groups. When Facebook friends can’t sleep at night, Ramey is there for them. The most difficult part is losing 32 friends on that site in less than three years.
Last spring, when Hannah Lefever graduated from St. Joseph’s College, she didn’t later read her father’s words in a journal.
Her dad was present in the audience when she accepted her diploma. When she decorated her first classroom to teach music to children, her dad was there.
Last summer, Ramey walked his daughter down the aisle on her wedding day and helped her and his new son-in-law, Jason Lefever, move into their first home.
More than a year after his life was supposed to be over, Ramey is still here, making memories and corny jokes.
Definitely, cancer has changed how he views life.
“All the big things I used to worry about, they aren’t as important as I thought they were.”
Living with terminal cancer requires prayer, a positive attitude and a sense of humor, he said.
“I’m supposed to help other people get through cancer,” Ramey said of the reason he believes he is still alive. “They are scared. Cancer is really scary. I want to be there for them.”