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Going on a bear hunt

Six months in remission, Hunt for a Lifetime to make dream come true for local military kid

Cancer survivor and military kid David Williams is all smiles as he picks out his gear for a bear hunt made possible by Cabela’s in Lacey and the national foundation Hunt for a Lifetime. Courtesy photo

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David Williams' epic odyssey to hunt bear in British Columbia hasn't come without its challenges. For starters, there's the Hodgkin's Lymphoma he had to battle into remission first, and the three study groups he voluntarily subjected himself to - but this 18-year-old Navy kid isn't going to let anything stop him.

"I'm a hunter," David said with a big game gleam in his eyes, as he sat inside the Lacey Cabela's Sunday following a recent shopping spree to outfit he and his dad for their upcoming hunt later this month.  Selected by Hunt for a Lifetime, a nonprofit foundation dedicated to taking those 21 years and younger with life-threatening illnesses or disabilities on hunting and fishing trips, David looks forward to celebrating six months of remission.

"Since I was eight or nine I have wanted to kill a bear," he said.  "I have never lost that dream."

Still, David and his family already feel they've been on the hunt of a lifetime - the hunt for good health.  Even six months in remission, they still tear up as they recount the details of treatments, fear, uncertainty and the good people that have come in and, unfortunately, out of their lives as a result.

Last spring, David noticed a growth on his upper thigh.  After tests, they received the devastating news - Hodgkin's Lymphoma, a cancer that results in a person's white blood cells growing out of control.  Suddenly a career Navy family, used to hardships and deployments, were thrust into a war they'd never expected.  After the tests, David and his mom, Farrah, were a ferry ride away at Seattle Children's Hospital for a crash 16-week in-patient chemotherapy regimen, while David's dad, Hospital Corpsman First Class Danny Williams, an E-6 in the Navy serving at the Naval hospital in Bremerton and David's 11-year-old brother, Dawson, were back in Kitsap County.  A family, closely bonded by God and love, found themselves separated by uncertainty and the Puget Sound.

"I'd spent a year thousands of miles away in Afghanistan but I'd do ten of those tours rather than be fifty-one miles by car from my son in the hospital," Danny said.

Through it all, the family counts their blessings, relying on their faith and each other.  They've found humor and Skype to be a uniting force, and through it all, they've kept close eye on each other.

David also serves as an inspiration.  Despite all the things that could have gone wrong, he volunteered for three study groups during his treatments so that others could benefit.  Being only 18, he could provide researchers with information about childhood cancer because unlike younger patients, he could articulate and describe his pains and comforts.  That required him to do chemo as an inpatient in four months rather than the typical nine-month program.

Spreading out his arms with a big smile, he recounted his decision. "I said I am here - use me."

Twenty-seven pills a day later, David helped doctors discover new insights, including the use of Claritin in battling certain pains.

"They called me the Claritin Kid," David grinned.

As David's mom, Farrah sat bedside through it all, hoping to provide all the comfort she could.  She contacted the Make a Wish Foundation.  What she discovered is that organization cuts off support at 18.  That's when she found Hunt for a Lifetime.

A number of organizations came together to make David's upcoming bear hunt a reality, including the local Cabela's, that not only completely outfitted David with camo clothing, but at no charge also gave David's dad gear, too, so he could accompany his son.

"Cabela's seems more like a family than a corporation," Danny Williams added.  "We've been so blessed to know them."

The next day after the shopping spree, David woke up and wondered if it was real.  He had several bouts with hallucination during his cancer treatments, so he needed a little reassuring.

Farrah nodded.  "David came to me the next day and said, ‘Mom, I think I dreamed it.'"
He may need a pinch or two on his bear hunt of a lifetime, too.

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