Portland cancer survivor is a SA global hero of hope

Cancer survivor and men’s health advocate, Michael Williams, 66, was elected as the South African representative for the Global Heroes of Hope Class of 2024. From left are his wife, Rachel Williams, Mr Williams and granddaughter, Jodi Fillies. Mr Williams also has a Santa gift box initiative, pictured on the table, where people can fill a box worth R150 to R200 and donate it to a children’s home on Friday December 15.

A Portland cancer survivor and advocate for men’s health has been elected as the South African representative for the Global Heroes of Hope Class of 2024.

Michael Williams, 66, originally from Salt River, now from Portland, was nominated by the Cancer Association of South Africa (CANSA) Relay for Life Mitchell’s Plain committee.

Mr Williams was the only person elected from South Africa. Each country forwarded names of their own elected people to the American Cancer Society.

The class of 2024 has 22 people elected from countries including Japan, Australia, Denmark, USA and Portugal.

Mr Williams was diagnosed with lymphoma, a type of cancer, in June 2021. He had extensive tests done after feeling sick (“‘You’re not alone’, cancer survivors told”, Plainsman, October 24).

The diagnoses left him shocked. “At first it was lung cancer but after more tests were done at Netcare Christiaan Barnard Memorial Hospital I was diagnosed with lymphoma cancer,” he said.

“The first time one receives the news, one thinks about death, already putting things in place for your family. The doctor said it was treatable and curable. There was a clash between being negative and positive. I stayed positive. As a trained counsellor it was quite easy to know what to do,” he said.

“I received my chemotherapy in mid July 2021. I had to put my trust in God. Only the best medical staff were assigned to me,” he said.

The Covid-19 pandemic was still at its height at the time and he spent his birthday in hospital. It was a traumatic experience for his family.

He was taking 27 tablets a day with many injections but he kept staying positive. “I knew I overcame so many things in life but this was a big one,” he said

On Tuesday January 25, last year, Mr Williams rang the bell which signified the completion of his cancer treatment and being free of the disease.

Medical technology has changed so much that it’s not a death sentence anymore, he said.

After ringing the bell, he felt he needed to give back. He got involved with Relay for Life. So many cases of cancer came his way. One can only counsel people if you’ve been through it, he said.

He wanted to reach more men, as he believes women are open about their health. “We don’t talk about health. Once it’s detected early, the better you can face it, beat it and live,” said Mr Williams.

“With my journey and getting a call from Belgium to notify me of the Global Heroes of Hope, I was speechless. I was overwhelmed and had tears of joy. I’ve felt I’ve done something right,” he said.

Chairperson for Cansa Relay for Life Mitchell’s Plain Committee, Saadiqah Abrahams, said Mr Williams has been committed to the cause, which got him nominated.

Mr Williams cares for others and he is willing to give back. He creates programmes with his team to advocate for knowledge around cancer in his own community. “He never misses a meeting, he takes initiative and he cares for others. I salute you Michael Williams, it is an honour to work alongside him.”

“Remember you’re not alone. Those that have passed on, we will remember them but to us now, there is light at the end of the tunnel. You must have faith so that it can be conquered,” he said.

His wife, Rachel Williams, 68, said they cared for him during his journey.

“We’re so proud of him and what he’s achieved irrespective of the bad he endured. He’s a Godly man and he puts God first then his family,” she said.

Ms Williams said families should show love to relatives battling cancer.

“I’ve lost so many people to cancer but we must support those with us,” she said.

His granddaughter, Jodi Fillies, 10, from Portland, said she was proud of her Pa, he must do well in his journey and continue to do so with God. “We love you,” she said.