Tackling Your Health As a Top Priority
- Football star Trent Williams, 33, was told a few years ago that he didn’t have much time to live.
- The cancer survivor recently recalled the story of advocating for his health, finding his rare cancer, and then his subsequent “terminal” misdiagnosis on the I Am Athlete show.
- One of the greatest cancer researchers of our time says get multiple opinions when you are diagnosed with cancer.
The left tackle recently went over the harrowing story of his “terminal” diagnosis, which happened when he played for the Washington Commanders, on the I Am Athlete show. “The doctor hadn’t even come in yet, but the nurse, she already got tears in her eyes. I thought my football career was over.”Read More
Eventually, when “the cyst” continued to go grow several years later, Williams finally laid down the law in 2019, refused to take “no,” for an answer, and advocated for his health.
“I went in the training room and closed the door and said, ‘You’re gonna call the doctor right now,'” he said.
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Williams was finally sent to a specialist, who finally removed it. It was indeed a tumor.
Even then, his doctors insisted it was probably benign. Williams went in to see an oncologist, who was allegedly shocked that the athlete’s team hadn’t done anything about the bump on his head years earlier. Williams was then finally diagnosed with a rare cancer called dermatofibrosarcoma protuberans (DFSP), which develops in the tissue of skin.
Doctors told SurvivorNet that this is actually a very tough disease to diagnose. “Probably 99 percent of the time those doctors (who examined Williams) would have been right,” said Dr. Richard Reidel, a medical oncologist at Duke University Cancer Institute. “It’s not uncommon for these to be misdiagnosed as something else, because they are so rare.”
An MRI showed how much the cancer had already spread.
The young father was then told by another doctor to “spend as much time as possible with your children,” as his days were numbered and he needed to “get his affairs in order” immediatey as well.
Finally, after years of being unsettled about this bump in his head and being dismissed about his concerns—and then a so-called terminal diagnosis—Williams finally caught a break: It turns out the cancer had not metastasized through his skull, and he was able to undergo treatment.
“I’m blessed man, I’m blessed,” the Texas native told the show.
Williams wasn’t able to sue his former team because of a “stipulation” in the league’s agreement, but then traded to the San Francisco 49ers.
Trent Williams is widely recognized as the best offensive lineman in the game, and his life and career are thankfully nowhere near over.
Advocating for Your Health
Sadly, Williams story is one of many in the cancer world. Doctors are human and can’t all know everything. Negligence can happen as well. One of the greatest cancer researchers of our time says get a second—or third—opinion when you are diagnosed with cancer. In fact, many experts say get multiple opinions.
“What would you do if someone in your family got cancer?”
We put that question to some of the most renowned cancer doctors in the country. National Cancer Institute Chief of Surgery Steven Rosenberg recommends seeing more than one doctor to confirm a diagnosis and figure out the options.
“If I had any advice for you following a cancer diagnosis, it would be, first, to seek out multiple opinions as to the best care, because finding a doctor who is up to the latest of information is important,” Dr. Rosenberg tells SurvivorNet. “And it’s always important to get other opinions so that you can make the best decisions for yourself in consultation with your care providers.”
As we highlight in several areas of SurvivorNet, highly respected doctors sometimes disagree on the right course of treatment, or in Williams’ case, whether a lump in your head should be removed or not, or whether or not your cancer is “terminal.”
Also, in some instances the specific course of treatment is not clear cut. That’s even more reason why understanding the potential approaches to your disease is crucial.
With Williams’ type of cancer, Dr. Reidel said that there are a few things that indicate this type of cancer to doctors, “the red flags are things that are rapidly growing, things that are painful, anything bigger than a golf ball.”
And in terms of how to prevent this type of cancer, Dr. Reidel the best thing to do is to pay attention to your body. “I think certainly people should be attuned to their body,” he said. “I don’t think every individual needs to do routine skin exams or self-exams, but for things this rare, just having awareness of if something is new, if it’s growing, that really warrants you to seek medical attention.”
Thankfully this football hero didn’t go against his gut and finally urged that something be done. He is alive and thriving today because of it.