Doctors told United States Army soldier Billy K. almost 50 years ago that he never would walk again, his left leg irreparably damaged by a spray of bullets when his patrol was ambushed in the jungle during the Vietnam War.
Doctors told him last year he had six months to live, an unfortunate victim of malignant pleural mesothelioma, an aggressive and incurable cancer around his lungs.
He didn’t listen either time.
Billy was back home last week cutting grass with a push mower, making plans to go camping with his wife and best friends.
A proud military veteran and mesothelioma survivor doing surprisingly well today, Billy, 72, is doggedly stubborn in his belief that he can overcome any obstacle in his path, still living life on his terms.
“I went to Vietnam knowing I might never return home alive — but I did. I’m a fortunate guy. I’m a determined guy, too,” he said by phone from his home in southwest Ohio. “If someone tells me I can’t do something, I make sure I do it. I’ve always believed you can beat anything if you put your mind to it.”
Billy spent more than six months in two different hospitals recovering from his war wounds. He worried more about his friends who never made it back alive. He received the Purple Heart medal for his combat service, slowly but surely working his way out of the wheelchair he used initially.
His crutches soon disappeared, too, and the harder he worked in rehabilitating his leg, the less he limped. He moved to Arizona, Colorado and other places over the next 40 years working different jobs before He retired 10 years ago and moved back to Ohio to be nearer to his close-knit family.
To him though, retirement meant at least a part-time job, which became a lawn service business that included cutting 10-15 yards around town each week. A little limp never stopped him from doing anything, but he knew something was wrong when it got tougher and tougher to catch his breath between lawns.
When it became almost unbearable, he finally went to a doctor. That eventually led to his diagnosis of pleural mesothelioma, confirmed by both the Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center and then the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.
Billy knew little about this rare and deadly disease, but he approached it with the same hard-headed determination that he takes with anything that stands in his way.
“I told every doctor I saw, `I’m going to beat this cancer,’ ” Billy said. “They didn’t say much back.”
Billy is the fifth of eight brothers and sisters, but the oldest of the four still living. He and wife Sharon are regulars at church each Sunday but even more regulars at camping, where they spend considerable time on the water, fishing and boating.
They have traveled numerous times to Washington, D.C., to visit the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, which honors all who served and the more than 58,000 Americans who died during that war. Billy is proud of his country. He is proud to have served it.
“He doesn’t talk too much about (his time served in Vietnam) unless you ask him. It’s still very emotional for him,” said Billy’s nephew Dennis, who lives nearby and has helped educate his uncle about mesothelioma. “But I can tell you he’s a very determined guy.”
Billy was diagnosed in October of 2013 and hospitalized briefly. He underwent three rounds of chemotherapy but opted against major surgery and radiation. Instead, he became a believer in alternative medicine and two particular health and wellness products.
He credits his good health today to the medicinal powers of Moringa, a tree grown in tropical climate and native to parts of Africa, South America and India. The leaves of the tree are rich in vitamins, nutrients and a variety of antioxidants, delivering anti-inflammatory and anti-tumor activity.
Moringa extract has been utilized for centuries for its health benefits, although never fully accepted by the traditional medical community.
Billy uses the powdered form of Moringa with purified water called Kangen, becoming a believer after seeing the benefits of other family members and friends who had used it before him.
“I just figured I had nothing to lose, so why not try something like this,” Billy said. “I feel great, so you could say I’m a believer now. People say I look better now than before I got sick. I’m sure this Moringa had something to do with it.”
Billy credits the Moringa for keeping his cancer in check. Yes, he gets tired quicker than before and the nerves in his left leg often flare up, but his lungs feel strong and his last CT scan showed no sign of cancer.
“My last check-up, the doctor couldn’t believe how good I looked. He didn’t say was totally out of the woods, but I’m in complete remission right now,” he said. “I must be doing something right.”