By Carmen M. Woodson-Wray
Richard “Angelo” Wilford recently received some disturbing news that most people would have taken extremely hard. While Angelo initially said what you would expect a person to say, “What, is he really telling me this? I’m only 20 years old. I have my whole life ahead of me.” It’s what Angelo said and did next that makes him the extraordinary fighter that he is.
What Angelo is referring to is a prognosis his doctor recently gave him concerning the cancer he has been fighting since March 2014. That cancer is hystiocytic sarcoma and his physician said he might only have 6 months to live. To understand Angelo’s fight you need to first understand his physical opponent–histiocytic sarcoma.
Histiocytic sarcoma is an extremely rare malignant form of cancer that arises from histiocytes. It is so rare there are only a few hundred cases that have ever been documented in medical literature. That often means limited research and sometimes less treatment options.
On his website he describes his experience from the time he first became ill to his commitment to maintaining normalcy in his life despite hospital stays and chemo-therapy. For Angelo, that includes doing extraordinary things like caring enough about others in similar situations to start The Army of Angelo. It’s a foundation he and his parents started to provide financial assistance to families with children fighting various types of cancer. They also include his plans for the future. He doesn’t tell you much about the disease itself.
Here’s what we know about hystiocytic sarcoma. The human body has many different types of cells—cells that make up the liver, cells that make up the lungs, as well as cells that make up the skin. The blood also has many types of cells—red blood cells and many subsets of white blood cells like the B-lymphocytes that make antibodies.
A histiocyte is a cell that is part of the immune system (white blood cells) that can be found in tissue throughout the body. They are throughout your body because the body is constantly fighting off attacks from bacteria, fungus, and viruses in tissue throughout the body. When you see the word Sarcoma, it refers to a tumor that arises from soft tissue—Iike fatty tissue or muscle tissue and it can also affect the bone, which has some soft tissue associated with it.
Angelo said his very first thoughts were more reactionary and he never made them audible as he politely waited for the doctor to finish talking. He said, “After we got done with our conversation my mind set was right back into the fighting mode.” He and his parents are firm believers in the power of the tongue. His favorite scripture is Proverbs 18:21, which says “Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof.” His favorite saying is “I have cancer, but cancer doesn’t have me.”
The founding pastor of City of Praise Church is Rev. Richard Wilford, Angelo’s father. Pastor Wilford said his first reaction was normal.
He said, “I don’t care how old or young you are you don’t want to hear somebody tell you that you’ve got six months. He really didn’t say six months. We did a CAT scan back in December to see how far the cancer had spread and then we did another one a month ago and it’s spreading. He was on a chemo pill for about eight weeks. We were hoping that
it would kill the cancer cells but it didn’t. I asked him based upon the pace that the cancer was spreading, what are we looking at and he said about six months. We know nobody can tell you when you are going to die. I told Angelo he can’t tell him he has six months when none of us know if we have six months. We only have today.”
Pastor Wilford said his son told him that he was still going to go on and live his life regardless. He said there was no reason to get mad with the doctor.
The Pastor said there was another family that received bad news that their child only had a year to live and the father tried to punch the doctor because he was so upset. “I said to him the reason why we are a little calmer and not as emotional is because we have a connection with God. We keep giving God the glory.” He said.
Angelo’s sister, 9-year-old Skye, says she loves to hang out with her brother. She knows that her brother is sick so she helps her father fix his breakfast and shares secrets with him. Skye said she doesn’t like to talk to her brother about him being sick. She said, “It makes me sad that he is sick.”
Speaking from his heart, Angelo says when he talks to the Lord about his situation he asks him to show him the way and that he believes in him and doesn’t believe in the doctor’s prognosis for his life expectancy. He said, “I’m going to live for as long as God wants me to live. If He wants me to come home tomorrow, I’ll be fine with that because I know I’m right with him.”
The IU Northwest student says he hasn’t changed his daily routine. It’s still the same. “Actually I’ve added since I’ve gotten the news. I’m going to the gym every day with my dad to build up my muscles and get my life set how I want it. Most people would start cutting out different activities, I haven’t cut out anything,” he said.
According to research done by Dr. Kelly Turner, PhD, on spontaneous remission, which she likes to refer to as Radical Remission, Angelo is right not to curtail his activities. He has incorporated several of the main healing factors she found to be associated with patients who healed themselves into his lifestyle without being aware of them.
In her book, Radical Remission: Surviving Cancer Against all Odds, Turner’s research revealed 75 different healing strategies. Out of which she found 9 factors patients had in common with being an exceptional patient cured from a terminal prognosis. Here are 5 of the 9 factors. They took control of their health, had strong reasons for living, increased positive emotions, embraced social support, and probably one of the most important factors in Angelo’s life is they deepened their spiritual connection.
Angelo says he would like for everyone to keep praying for him because the intercessory prayers are not going in vain. He said, “I feel them every day. That’s how I’m able to get out of the house and enjoy my life.”