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Jan. 17, 2023

Bill Potts: Surviving Cancer Five Times and Beyond

After surviving five different cancers and radiation treatments, Bill Potts took control of his cancer journey, only to have his sense of smell enhanced by his latest brutal chemotherapy combination.

After surviving five different cancers and radiation treatments, Bill Potts took control of his cancer journey, only to have his sense of smell enhanced by his latest brutal chemotherapy combination.

"I have to own my own cancer journey. I just can't be listening to what everybody is telling me in particular."

Bill Potts is a survivor of six different cancers, five times. He has experienced radiation, chemotherapy, and immunotherapy treatments and is currently being treated at the Mayo Clinic for his most recent bout of lymphoma.

Bill Potts was diagnosed with thyroid cancer in his early twenties when his PCP noticed a tennis ball-sized goiter on his neck. He was put in the hospital and isolated for three days until he was no longer a radiation risk. After six months, he was recommended to have another treatment, but instead, he went to MD Anderson to get a second opinion. In 2008, he noticed a lump on his neck and had it biopsied, which turned out to be lymphoma. He had it treated with Immunotherapy, which worked for five years. In 2014, it returned and was treated again. In 2019, it returned again to his throat, and in 2020 it returned to his groin. He has been treated with chemotherapy plus immunotherapy at Mayo Clinic for the last time. 

In this episode, you will learn the following:
1. How Bill Potts survived five different cancer diagnoses and avoided additional treatments with the help of a keen-eyed primary care physician.
2. How Bill discovered a new form of immunotherapy prior to it becoming mainstream and used it to successfully keep his lymphoma at bay for five years.
3. How Bill's wife detected the fourth return of his lymphoma and the aggressive chemotherapy and immunotherapy combination he underwent to treat it.

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I went to my primary care physician. He looked at me and said, there's something on your thyroid, and we need to get it checked.

Did you notice anything on your neck? Did you have any symptoms at all? No symptoms. Didn't notice anything. The keen eye of the PCP really identified it.

So I was living in Houston at the time. Did a follow-up scan at the six months, and they noticed something on the scan.

I'd come back from Europe from a business trip, and I noticed this lump below my ear. I went to my PCP here, and then he sent me to ENT guy, and they said it's probably no big deal, we'll just take it out and see. 

Non-hodgkin's lymphoma. In my particular version, it's not curable, so it just keeps coming back. 

Well, it worked until 2014. And so my cancer didn't come back for five years, which is amazing. 

How big was it? It was probably the size of a walnut. But I am pretty thin. So it just happened to be sitting in a spot where I could see it through the skin.

I could tell I was having a little difficulty swallowing. But I went on my one-year scan, and they're like, you know you have something in your throat? 

Yeah, it's a little bit deceptive because you hear Immunotherapy and you don't think there are going to be side effects, but there are. 

This is the fourth time the lymphoma has come back?

No, they just poured a bunch of chemicals and the smell went away. And I'm like, oh, thank goodness.

It's a challenge to grow up with a dad with cancer. 

So I'm trying to set expectations that it's going to be a real challenge, and it's not necessarily a slam dunk. I get to beat it.

I worked in the Department of Nuclear Medicine when I was in college, and it was pretty loosey-goosey on the safety protocol, so it's likely I got radiated there.

I was totally naive. Oh, God. I know. I'm like, what? You're putting me in a hospital bed.

And she goes, Bill, you're ringing the bell for us, the staff; we want to hear it. And by the way, that bell will give them hope, the ones that are in the rooms. And I'm like, okay. And I did, and it was magical. 

I would say I'd shift the focus a little bit to preventing people from getting sick versus trying to get them better. So lean on health and wellness versus how to heal people that are sick. 

It's kind of a win-win. I'm not saying taxes are the answer to everything, but cigarettes would be a logical one. 

Bill, are you ready for the Thriver Rapid Fire questions?

What's one resource you would recommend for cancer patients and caregivers? And please tell people how they can get in touch with you and find your book.

I basically had an emotional breakdown on September 17, 2020, when I came out of surgery for Lymphoma Number Five at Mayo by myself because you couldn't have a guest in the recovery room. And I was crying. And the nurse, Jen, says, what's wrong? 

Bill PottsProfile Photo

Bill Potts


Bill is a five-time cancer survivor. He is turning his cancer pain into purpose and has written a book to help others in their cancer journey- so others can learn from his mistakes. He provides practical advice on managing the journey for patients and their families.