Astronomy professor Darren Williams fights leukemia - The Behrend Beacon

Astronomy professor Darren Williams fights leukemia

Posted on Tuesday, October 23, 2012 at 7:25 PM

Author: Lacey Murdock (staff writer)

     Astronomy professor Darren Williams has accomplished much in his lifetime.
He has taught at Behrend for the past 14 years and has been the commencement speaker at Penn State Behrend in 2006 and at Jamestown Community College in 2012. He has given more than 100 astronomy talks to community and academic groups over the past 20 years.

     He is the principal organizer and speaker for the Behrend Open House nights in the Astronomy lecture series. Also, he is a Harlow Shapley lecturer sponsored by the American Astronomical Society. When asked what his greatest accomplishments were, he replied with all of these things, but that overcoming leukemia would be his new greatest accomplishment.

     “When I have completed all of my cancer treatments, this will be my new ‘greatest accomplishment’,” he said.         

     Darren Williams was admitted to the hospital on the first day of the semester. He had been experiencing excessive bleeding of the gums and little red spots, called petichei, just under the skin for 6-9 months, both signs of leukemia. Another symptom is a susceptible immune system that leads to bruising of the skin and frequent infections.

     When Williams experienced a scrape on his foot that became infected the day before classes started in the fall, he decided to get it checked out at the St. Vincent ER. It was then that a nurse discovered the red spots on William’s lower leg and decided to take some blood samples that later showed a dangerously low platelet count and leukemic cells.

     Fortunately, the cancer was discovered and is beatable; Darren Williams’ next greatest accomplishment is underway. He has already gone through the first round of chemo which included seven days and seven bags of “toxic soup” administered through an IV into his body. This treatment caused muscle weakening, hair loss, loss of appetite, and weight loss. All while killing all of his white blood cells. He spent 29 days in the hospital with this treatment and recovery and returned two weeks later for follow up chemo. Over the next four months,    Warren will have to return for more treatment.

     “I enjoy explaining things to others and sharing what I’ve learned,” he said.

     That is why Darren Williams first began teaching 14 years ago, and he isn’t about to let cancer hold him back from it. He is eager to return to teaching and return to Behrend and there is a chance he will be able to soon.

     “Statistically, there is a high probability of me being leukemia free in early spring after the follow up chemo cycles have been completed,” Williams said.