Man, child heroes for each other

5:49 PM, Nov 4, 2011   |    comments
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Inspiration can come from unlikely places.

Just ask a man from Alpharetta and a child from Cumming, who have inspired each other through a terrifying situation.

"Wouldn't you be touched by knowing that someone looked up to you and supported you?" asks Mark Williams. 
 
Now 58 years old, Williams is a proud husband and father, an avid gardener, and a senior VP at work. Three years ago he started getting headaches and tried to shake them off ... until one day, he couldn't.
 
"I just sat down on the steps outside of my work," Williams recalls. "I was so sick, I couldn't walk."
 
Doctors started an MRI on Williams and stopped it midway when they found 14 tumors on his brain.
 
"There was just too many tumors," Williams said. "I had a big one behind this eye, and [today] I have dents and sagging where tumors have died in my head.

"I didn't know, 'What does this mean? Am I gonna be dead next month, or in two weeks?'"
 
The actual diagnosis: most people fail to live longer than 4 to 6 months -- months that would be filled with chemotherapy and full-head radiation.

"I planned to focus on being hopeful," Williams said. "I believed, deep down in my soul, that God would pull me through. I felt like I was gonna die physically, but I kept hanging in there."

Helping Williams hang in there was an unlikely source: an eleven-year-old sports-loving youngster named Collins Dixon.

The Dixons and Williams are very close, and when Collins first visited Mark, he was stunned.
 
"I thought it was really horrifying," he remembers. "I don't know how he got through all that, and stuff, and it was just really scary for me."
 
"I didn't want him to worry and be scared," said Williams. "I told him, 'Well I'm gonna enlist you in my Army. I'm gonna make you a prayer warrior.'"
 
Armed with a LiveStrong bracelet and a purpose, Collins became a prayer warrior, and then some.
 
"I prayed for him every night and every morning, and every dinner and every meal," he said.

Adds Collins' mother, Robin Dixon, "We would sit down to dinner, and Collins would every time, at the end of the prayer, add, 'And please heal Mark'."

Williams received support from all over, but his desire to exhibit grace and resolve in the face of tragedy meant just a little more because of Collins.

He pulled through everything and now requires just a few check-ups per year. But earlier this year, something new happened.

Doctors found a brain tumor in Collins as well.

"I'll never forget that doctor's face," mother Robin says. "He leaned up on the wall and his lips were trembling when he told us that Collins had a tumor."
 
Suddenly, the youngster was the one in the hospital, in surgery, in chemo. But he had support from a familiar face.

Recalls Williams, "I reached over and hugged him, and I said, 'Now you're my hero.' I whispered into his ear, 'Don't you be afraid of anything; God's watching over you, and so am I ...'"

The good news is, Collins is recovering nicely as well. His latest MRI showed that his tumor is shrinking. Tomorrow he will walk in the Kids II Strong Legs Run, the proceeds of which benefit Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, with his inspirational twin.

"I see victory in him," Williams says, "because of what I've been through."

For more on the Strong Legs Run, check out http://www.choa.org/Support-Childrens/Events/Strong-Legs-Run.

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