Cancer Freeze adds 9th name

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 19, 2013

When Florala Mayor Robert Williamson stood on the Lake Jackson’s shore in February, welcoming audience members to the 2013 Cancer Freeze, no one had any idea that seven months later, he would be on the receiving end of its fundraising effort.

Florala Mayor Robert Williamson

Florala Mayor Robert Williamson

At 52, the radio station owner and sports broadcaster thought the cold he caught over the Christmas holidays just wouldn’t go away, but that was not the case. It was with B Cell Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma, a blood cancer that affects the lymph glands.

“I got a cold after the holidays and the lingering congestion just wouldn’t go away despite multiple doctor visits and antibiotics,” Williamson said. “My right ear was affected by the congestion, and by May, it was completely blocked, and I couldn’t hear out of it.”

Williamson’s wife, Kim, made two ENT appointments with two different doctors, “not knowing which one I would be able to keep with my hectic work schedule,” he said.

The first appointment ended with an ear tube for Eustachian Tube Dysfunction because of the infection.

“I could hear immediately afterward and hoped the residual congestion would resolve, but it didn’t,” he said.

It took two other ENT consults to put Williamson on a path to diagnosis.

“A friend suggested to Kim that I go to Birmingham to her ENT,” Williamson said. “He took one look and told me he was fearful I had cancer, but then conferred with his partner and came back in the exam room and stated he was optimistic it could be a retropharyngeal abscess but that I still needed a more specialized doctor to take care of it.”

As it turns out, the doctor was correct. After a battery of tests and a nasopharyngeal biopsy, Williamson received a diagnosis of B Cell Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma.

“I am a radio and sports broadcaster,” he said. “My voice is how I make a living and the mass in my neck was pressing on the muscles that control my tongue, making speech difficult. I am self-employed and knew I had to get the best possible treatment, which in my opinion, is MD Anderson in Houston.”

There, Williamson is receiving the treatment and support needed for his recovery.

“I am blessed with a good prognosis and, thus far, almost half way through the chemotherapy protocol, I have tolerated the treatments very well,” he said. “All this said, I know the Great Physician and I believe He is working through my doctor and the medication to eradicate the disease from my body.”

Williamson said he also credits community support for a portion of his recovery.

“Kim and I have dear friends who are praying for us daily, and we are fortunate that the Lord has shown us mercy and grace through this journey toward healing,” he said. “Certainly cancer and the treatment for it change a person physically, but for me, it has been a spiritual awakening, too. I accepted Christ as my savior when I was seven years old and for 28 years I traveled with my family as part of a gospel group, then as a soloist, but as my sports broadcasting business grew, it seemed the opportunities to use my voice for the Lord dwindled.

“One of the very first revelations that came to me after the diagnosis was that I needed to get back to my roots – Southern gospel music – and God moved to make an opportunity that only He could have created,” he said.

Williamson is the ninth recipient of the fundraising event established in 2007 by Caleb Davidson in memory of family and friends who had passed away with cancer. For a $20 entry fee, skiers brave the waters of Florala’s Lake Jackson in the middle of the winter – which led to the name “Cancer Freeze.” It will be held on Sat., Feb. 1, 2014.

Proceeds of the event will be split among the nine recipients – two of Florala, four from Andalusia, two from Paxton, Fla., and another from Crestview, Fla. They are Rylan Pettie, Megan Kelley and Bailey Byrd, all of Andalusia; Glenn Morris of Crestview, Fla.; Richard Barnes of Florala, and Sheryl Evans and Stacey Spears Leddon of Paxton, Fla.

“Cancer Freeze in an extraordinary event in Florala, and Jennifer and Caleb Davidson are two exceptional people at its helm,” he said. “I am both humbled and honored to be chosen as a recipient of their hard work and the love of this wonderful community.”