Professional Wrestler "Dr. Death" Steve Williams
In the Ring with Cancer
by Laura Shipp
Professional wrestling legend “Dr. Death” Steve Williams has worked for many of the major wrestling promotions in the world, including WCW and the WWE. In the ring, Dr. Death is generally regarded as one of the best “shooters,” or wrestlers with a background in legitimate fighting, in the business. He popularized the Oklahoma Stampede, named for his collegiate football career at the University of Oklahoma, and he used this powerhouse move to take down many opponents.
During his professional wrestling career, which spans over two decades, Dr. Death has stepped into the ring against numerous menacing foes, including tough guys like Dick Murdoch, Ric Flair, and Dustin Rhodes. But in 2004, he faced his toughest opponent yet when he was diagnosed with throat cancer. Though he was unable to speak at all for several months following surgery to remove his tumor, Doc now uses his voice to inspire others by sharing his story from the wrestling ring.
Recently, I had the chance to talk with Doc about how he went head to head with cancer and came out on top. He relies on a stoma to communicate, but his voice is clear and strong. It’s the kind of voice you would expect from a man with the nickname “Dr. Death.” Despite his menacing name and his gargantuan stature, Doc admits he is not dauntless. “Cancer was the scariest thing I have ever been through in my life,” he confides.
Though he was determined to win the fight, it wasn’t exactly easy.
After experiencing prolonged symptoms that he thought was just a really bad cold, Doc decided to see a throat specialist who ran tests and did a biopsy. When the results showed that he had cancer, he admits that he and his daughter, Stormy, with whom he shares a close relationship, cried with each other for about an hour. “And all of a sudden, I got over myself, and I said, ‘Stormy, I’m going to beat this cancer,’” Doc reveals. “And from that day on, I took cancer by the horns, and I wrestled it and fought it.”
Though he was determined to win that fight, it wasn’t exactly easy. Along with intense chemotherapy and radiation, Doc had surgery to remove his vocal chords, thyroid, and deltoid muscle and nerves. For months, his only form of communication was a dry erase board, and his massive size shrunk from 290 pounds to around 205 pounds during the early stages of his treatment.
Doc admits, “There were days that it was tough for me, days when I didn’t think I was going to make it.” But through it all, he says he relied on his faith to give him strength: “Every day, I prayed to God that he would pull me through.”
Now cancer-free, Doc believes he has been given a second chance at life. In fact, he no longer thinks of himself as Dr. Death, but as Dr. Life. “I don’t take anything for granted. I used to live a fast-lane life. I’ve had to slow it down,” he says. “I’m a better father than I ever was. I take time to listen to my kids. I pray with my son all the time. I enjoy life a lot more now.”
Doc asserts that the greatest thing that he does now is share his story with people across the country. “I want to go out and tell so many people that there is hope to beat cancer,” he says. And before we conclude our interview, he leaves me with his best advice for winning the fight: “Don’t give up,” he says. “Bottom line, don’t give up.”
♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦