His goal is life
By KEVIN O’KEEFE
OF THE EXPRESS-NEWS STAFF
There will be no more third-down quarterback sacks for Bill Ludwikowski,. No more goal-line stands. No more blitzes.
But there will be life, something that didn’t appear certain seven months ago.
Bill was a star linebacker for Holmes High School last season. This season he was still a star even thought he didn’t play a down.
Last May 12, he went into the hospital after getting a neck injury in spring football. “that’s all we thought it was.” Bill said. “But while I was in there, I couldn’t urinate. So they did a test and found out had a malignant tumor on my prostate and they had to operate.”
Dr. Lynan Brothers led a team of seven doctors who operated on Bill in Wilford Hall Medical Center June 9th. After 15 hours of surgery, Bill had his prostate and bladder removal along with lymph nodes below his diaphragm. He also had the nerves of his legs scrapped because they too had been harmed by the cancer.
“I have and artificial bladder now,” he says, “but that’s okay because I could go the bathroom outdoors and not get picked up for indecent exposure.” It is that comment that typifies Bill’s state of mind. He is loose and not afraid. He is not a bitter young man (he will be 18 on January 18th), but rather a man who is simply glad to be alive. A man not to be pitied, but to be admired for his courage.
“I’ll tell you, if it had happened to me, you would have had to scrape me off the floor.” Frank Arnold, Bill’s coach at Holmes, said. “He’s taken this much better than anyone else. He has an undying faith, that’s what does it.” “I think there are three things that have kept me here.” Bill said. “One, is the man upstairs, Two, my dad and three, the team. “You know, I still felt that I could play even with the artificial bladder. Jerry Kramer of the packers did.
”But it is my legs that are holding me back. I have little strength in my left one. I just didn’t believe how destroyed they were. The doctors told me I wasn’t expected to walk I am going to prove them wrong though. When they had to scrape the nerves, that’s the trouble.”
And his legs are still a constant concern even though the doctors have place him in the 80 to 90 per cent cured bracket.
“I can’t jump up and down and I have trouble climbing stairs, but I figure as long as I am walking, I’m okay.” Bill said. “It cares me to think of being in a wheelchair for the rest of my life.”
“I know his legs hurt him quite a bit,” Arnold said. “But he has been at every one of our district games and has come to almost every practice. He is our co-captain and calls the coin toss (he was 7-1 on the flip). He is just an exceptional kid. A leader. A doer.
“Last year he was one of our top college prospects. Notre Dame, Rice, Texas Tech, the Academies and Texas A&M were some of the schools that talked to him. Our kids just love him. It just tore them up when they heard about his illness.”
“You know, Bill missed our first four games, but before the Del Rio game, he came into the locker room.” Coach Dennis Parker, an assistant, said. “It really got our kids up. We could have beaten the old Green Bay Packers that day.”
“He’s a senior everybody looks up to, “ Dan Schreiber, a two-away, senior starter for Holmes, said. “Lud gets us going. It was hard on us, but we thought only of how he would take it. You can’t pity him. You have to act normal. “He gives us strength He gives everyone strength.”
“I can’t explain it,” Bill said, responding to the comments of his coaches and teammates. “I guess I am the binding spirit that held the team together. I just get in there and talk. I think I have helped them stay together. “I told the guys at one game that they couldn’t quit, I would have died.” Dying, such an unreal concept for someone who is 17.
The doctors were honest with me,“ Bill recalled. “ They told me that I might never get off the table. But I thought about it and decided I was too young to die. I hadn’t accomplished what I wanted to yet.”
“They (the doctors) feel they have all the cancer,“ Bill said. “Now, all I have to do is live through the chemotherapy. Boy that is tough. After my first radiation treatment, I had diarrhea and vomiting.
“I take four pills a day and get injections. I see the doctors often.” “You know, it was hard to believe and hard to accept, “ Arnold said, remembering his first reactions to Bill’s illness. “He is such a great person. I was pretty winded by it. I have a 14-year-old at home and I tend to look at him in a different light. You realize how much you take for granted.”
Besides being involved in football, Bill is the student council treasurer and vice president of the math club. He is ranked fifth in his senior class and carries a 96.2 scholastic average. “I’ve missed a lot of school, but I have caught up now except for a couple of physics experiments,“ Bill said.”I will graduate with my class in the spring.”
He got a scare again last week when a lump showed up on his lower stomach area. “The doctors thought is might be some more cancer, but the tests were negative. It just disappeared,” Bill reported.
“We deal with so many kids and some aren’t too good.” Arnold said. “It’s just a shame that something like this had to happen to Bill. It’s a real tragedy.. “Coach Arnold has been very supportive, “ Bill said. “He has been there when I needed him.”
Bill continued.” And it wouldn’t be accurate to say this brought my father and I closer together. We have always been close. We have been through a lot together.”
Presently, Bill is pondering a four-year scholarship offer from Princeton. The scholarship calls for a two-year deferment so he might finish his therapy here.
“When I look at the future.” Bill said. “I go one day at a time. I don’t know if I will wake up in the morning. But I will keep on going.” When I was in the hospital, I sat crying one day.” He recalled. “I asked. “Why me?” But my dad said that wasn’t for me to answer. Then, I thought I can’t lay here and give up. I’m alive and thank God for that.”
Indeed, Bill and thank God for your spirit.