Bucks for Bill: Fundraiser to support Bill Hines Nov. 12 in Ellsworth
Bill Hines thought he had a cold. After all, his wife, Tracey Hines was just getting over one.
He was coughing for a while, so Bill visited a doctor. The doctor thought it might be something to do with his new blood pressure medication. They sent him home with new medication.
After a couple weeks, Bill's coughing progressed, his chest ached. He returned to the doctor, received antibiotics for what might be a bacterial infection. No chest x-ray was done.
His cough didn't cease. His wife urged him to head to urgent care.
"I said, 'honey, you have to go over to urgent care,'" Tracey said. "You're not eating, you're losing weight. I think you have pneumonia."
On Aug. 10, Bill went to urgent care in Red Wing, received a chest x-ray, and was told to call his family.
This is when Bill learned about his cancer.
The doctors found a softball sized tumor below Bill's heart, obstructing the airflow through some of his arteries. Bill has high-grade, large b-cell, Non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
"Our whole world, the rug was just pulled right out from under us," Tracey said.
It's a lymphoma that grows quickly. Bill could combat it though. He's 53 and healthy. He just needs chemotherapy.
The Hines family was sent home after visiting Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., but their time home wouldn't last long.
On Aug. 11, Bill began profusely puking. Tracey rushed him to the emergency room.
The doctors found the cancer was in his pancreas and liver: Stage 4 cancer.
"At first, it's just a blur," Tracey said. "Our world is literally crumbling around us. It moves so fast but it's in slow motion all at the same time."
Bill says he's not in a lot of pain from the tumor underneath his heart; that's shrunk to the size of a half-dollar since he began his chemotherapy treatments.
But his extremely aggressive chemotherapy, one that is only done in a few places around the country, takes a toll on his body.
"The chemo has knocked me out...there's nothing left for ya," Hines said. "You're just wore out."
The chemotherapy has taken a massive toll on his body, causing him to lose 50 pounds, which Bill didn't have that much to lose in the first place. He's been dealing with mucositis too, making it even more difficult to eat or move for that matter. Mucositis is a painful inflammation and ulceration of the mucous membranes lining the digestive tract, usually caused by chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatments.
To put it simply, the chemotherapy scares Bill.
"If I Iost 50 pounds again, what do you think that'd look like?" he asked.
Due to the severe nature of the chemotherapy, Bill rarely sleeps while at Mayo Clinic. He's poked and prodded, every 15 minutes, 24 hours a day. Tracey said the chemotherapy could shut his organs down.
Bill was given a 60-40 chance to survive the cancer.
It's so hard to stay positive. It's so hard to think about anything else.
"At first it's like, 'we've got this,'" Tracey said. "But then things get more real and more dire, the diagnosis got a little more worse over time...it's our life right now. It's our job that we don't get paid for. Fighting cancer is our job right now."
Bucks for Bill
When he's not in Rochester, Bill watches out the window of his home. Along with his dog, Max, they see deer prancing and playing in the field nearby.
Bill enjoys watching them, but it also reminds him of his limitations.
For 42 years in a row, Bill has been out in the field for bow hunting opener. Bow hunting is Bill's passion. He thinks about it a lot.
Observing his passion, a fundraiser for the Hines' family has been organized for them 1-5 p.m. Nov. 12 at CrossRoad Community Church in Ellsworth. For more information on the event, visit the Ellsworth Bank Mutual Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/Bank-Mutual-Ellsworth-164781903548113/.
The event is family friendly, with various raffles, a silent auction, and a spaghetti dinner being offered.
The event has been organized by Tracey's coworkers at Ellsworth Bank Mutual. Tracey has been working there since 2000, with her boss Raynee Farrell saying it was no-brainer to hire her.
"Because she was good with people," Raynee said. "She's still good with people."
Bill's diagnosis affected all of them, a group that refers to themselves as the Bank Ladies. They stick together. They support each other often.
Like the tight-knit community at the bank, Tracey said the small town community has helped immensely between donating for Bucks for Bills and assisting the family as much as possible.
Like the cancer diagnosis, leaving their community isn't an option. It's home. Tracey said she appreciates the amount of support they've gotten. Usually having nosey people is a bad thing, but Tracey said it's been outstanding.
Bill is from Ellsworth, while Tracey is from Plum City.
Tracey said the couple met in high school. Bill was dating her best friend at the time, but Tracey was unable to date yet, per her parents.
After they broke up and Tracey became old enough to date, Bill asked her out; 31 years of marriage later, the couple laughs about it.
Bill said of his optimistic, bubbly wife, "She's always been very sweet and very beautiful. And very kind."
A guarantee from Bill
Bill currently works for the Pierce County Highway Department and said his co-workers have donated their vacation times to him while he receives treatment.
"It's awesome," Bill said. "It's just awesome. Such an outpouring."
The Hines are in Rochester almost every single day. They go on walks through the hospital every once in awhile, trying to keep his lungs clear and avoid blood clots. Bill said the chemotherapy makes him quite sick.
The chemotherapy is intense and feels never ending. Going through many rounds and cycles.
The family couldn't be more appreciative for the volunteers, donations, and time spent organizing his fundraiser, Bucks for Bill.
They've already started receiving bills, the type of bills you couldn't save a lifetime for.
The Hines have a gofundme page as well: https://www.gofundme.com/helpbillkickcancersbutt.
Cancer is always on his mind, whether he's in the hospital, petting Max, or watching out the window at future targets.
With the world crumbling, the cancer and chemotherapy taking its toll, and the family on full alert, Bill wants everyone to know something.
Come bow season next year, he'll be out there.
"If I can get through this and get healthy again, I guarantee I'll be out there next year," Hines said. "For sure. It's going to happen."