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Bill Beats Bile Duct Cancer

Bill Beats Bile Duct Cancer

At the ripe age of 74, Bill Taylor is grateful for his life.

“I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for proton therapy,” he says matter-of-factly.

One night in January 2015 Bill woke up with sharp, intense pain in stomach area. The pain reoccurred for several months and he went to the emergency room on multiple occasions. He had scans and tests and was given pain medication. Bill saw doctors, specialists and gastroenterologists.

“I went four months with this pain, and I’ll never forget this moment and neither will my wife,” Bill recalled with a slow sigh. “I was told by doctors ‘the good news is it’s not cancer.’”

The pain continued, and finally in May, Bill was referred to UW Medicine. After an endoscopy, doctors found a tumor in Bill’s bile duct, a long tube-like structure that carries bile from the liver and the gallbladder to the intestine. It’s required for digesting food.

The large and rare tumor was 25 square centimeters, roughly the size of a golf ball.

From there, Bill’s options were limited. He moved forward with a surgical procedure called a “Whipple,” where doctors remove the “head” of the pancreas next to the small intestine. Four hours later, they closed Bill up and told him his tumor was inoperable. There was no cure.

The following month, Bill met with Seattle Cancer Care Alliance’s Dr. Apisarnthanarax, or Dr. A as he’s known. He took a look at Bill’s case and determined he was too weak to tolerate IV chemotherapy. So, Dr. A suggested proton therapy.

On July 9, Bill began proton therapy for six weeks, five days a week. At the time that he started, he was so weak his daughter drove him to and from his appointments.

When asked about the clinic, Bill describes it as “walking into an enormous family room.” People who didn’t know each other, knew each other. The staff had smiles on their faces as they constantly greeted patients and visitors. Bill says the attitude in the room was anything but clinical.

“When you go into a doctor’s office, the waiting room is miserable,” Bill says. “You’re sitting in a room looking at people with grim faces. At SCCA Proton Therapy Center, it is the exact opposite. It helped me get through my treatment, no question about it.”

On August 13, Bill completed his final treatment. The more treatments he received, the stronger he felt.

At the end of treatment, scans revealed Bill’s tumor had shrunk from 31 square centimeters to 21 centimeters. He had periodic, three month check-ups.  At the next scan, the tumor was down to 6. And the next? Down to 3, then finally 2 ½. His blood test revealed a dramatic drop in his tumor markers, which measures the level of cancer in your body. In May it was 157, and now in February it was 6. 

“I went from not knowing if I even had months to live, to some years to look forward to. There’s still no cure, it’s probably still inoperable, but every scan I’ve had it’s gone down.”

Bill, a retired marketing professional, now lives in his hometown of Renton, Washington.

He spent 30 years of his life in the marketing field, including 10 years as Vice President of Sales & Marketing for Pez Company in New York City. He retired in 2012, as President of the Renton Chamber of Commerce. Today he has settled into a healthy retirement, as his wife continues teaching mathematics at a local middle school.

He enjoys living life to the fullest and being proud of his life and family. He didn’t waste the opportunity to brag about his daughter, who recently had her artwork shown on the third floor at the King Street Station. “Giant Steps: Artist Residency on the Moon.”

Advice he has for current patients?

“Proton therapy works. I would insist that your doctor give you a referral so they can at least look at you and see if you’re a candidate,” Bill said. “Whatever time I have left to live is there because of proton therapy. And I am eternally grateful and I thank God every night.”