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“The Story of the Man They Call Big Billy” - The Man, The Myth or The Legend?

Sundanceh's picture
Posts: 4408
Joined: Jun 2009

It was late winter of 2010 and the nights were long and dark. I had ‘tied one on’ at the Infusion Center Lounge that day with yet another “Folfiri Bender” - one of the most popular cocktails that they serve at the waterin’ hole I imbibe at. It packed quite the knockout punch on me – you could say that I could do “One and Was Done.”

I was sick’ern’ a dog and all hopped up on “The Dex”, and ‘the pump’ was hanging off the headboard whirring and clicking, systematically filling me full of poison with each audible turn of that annoying sound the motor makes as it deliver you ‘the juice.’

I lay there in bed motionless hour after hour, listening to the wall clock mock me from the other side of the house, with its relentless chiming that marked the passage of time – a haunting melody that became the subtle and audible reminder of yet another sleepless sixty-minute span of time that I would never see again.

It must have been somewhere between 3am – 4am in the early morning – that thin layer of time that separates the night from the dawn – a time whether it is neither night nor day - a time where things can come unhinged either physically, mentally, or emotionally for those infantry combat personnel who find themselves marching on in the cancer battlefields of our minds.

It is known affectionately as the “Witching Hour” for so many a cancer patient who find themselves in the throes of treatment – it’s a special time when we find ourselves totally alone with nothing but our thoughts to keep us company.

It can be a time of deep despair and haunted visions – or it can be a time of enlightenment where certain truths finally align themselves in the perfect order, thus providing you the clarity and understanding of that, which you’ve been searching for those many long, soulful nights.

It can be a time when we’re ready to put a stamp on it and mail it in with talk about quitting – or it can be a time where we pick ourselves back up and vow to keep moving forward.

The beauty of this hour of time, is that “It’s All Ours.” The Witching Hour is where the seeds of Personal Growth are planted – that will one day come to fruition and be harvested.

And it’s from this process, that we grow from within from what we allow ourselves to feel and experience during those lonely evenings when the house is dark and silent and you find yourself with a lot of time on your hands.

Each night, we never know what is going to run through our heads and what we will feel and learn from that when we lay our heads down on the pillow – and that’s the beautiful part of this aspect of the journey. There are no rules – and we’re free to live out whatever random thoughts or feelings that comes to our mind.

It is many things to many people – but in its simplest form, it is a time of reflection – and a special time to allow ourselves the permission to feel, think and explore the intricacies of the disease and all that comes with it. This is our opportunity to confront the demons that are calling out to us. It’s a time to ask questions – and it’s a time that we may also find answers to some of the mystery – the real victory comes from the process of The Searching.

Anyway, on this particular night, before the early dawn, there was a stillness and a calmness in the air that was so eerily quiet, that I could hear the thoughts rattling around in my skull, like a ping-pong game gone mad on steroids.

I was tired – I felt defeated – and at that moment in time, I had lost my way. And in the process of doing so, I also discovered that I had lost my inspiration as well, but by the time I realized that, it was already too late – because, Hope had also packed a suitcase and was headed right out the door too to join the others.

It was a complete ‘jail break’ and left me laying there feeling emotionally bankrupt and destitute.

I was nearly a beaten man; swaying back and forth and grasping at those imaginary ropes in the fight ring that I thought were holding me upright – like the image of a latter-day Rocky Balboa, just trying to go the distance in a title-fight against such a formidable adversary as cancer and his associated henchmen that masquerade themselves in the form of cancer treatments.

“Bloodied, battered and beaten”, I lay there contemplating why I was fighting so hard – and for what anymore. And I was trying to justify if feeling this sick every day, was worth the price to be paid anymore…and more significantly, if I wanted to continue to pay the cost to be the boss anymore. What was the point anymore, if this is all there is ever going to be?

Then, all of a sudden, I felt this silent lucidity come into play, where I questioned whether or not that I had the toughness anymore to do what it takes to get to the final round of the big title-fight defense that I had fought and won a couple of times prior…I thought about the line that Apollo Creed used in the movie, Rocky…”Ain’t gonna’ be no re-match…”

Maybe my time was done I was thinking to myself…all great fighters have to lay down the gloves some day and ‘retire’…maybe that time had come for me…maybe this was finally my day to say “No Mas.” I was trying to convince the fighter in me that I had finally had enough.

For a moment or two, I seriously contemplated taking my hands off the wheel…

And then ‘he’ came to me….the idea of Big Billy and the ideology of what he stood for and represented to me – and what he might represent for other fighters, who found themselves at a juncture in their fights, when they felt their strength waning and their own mental resolve beginning to weaken.

So, I created this persona of a character, that would carry the markings of one bad-*** cancer fightin’ dude – a guy that from the looks of him, would the antithesis of what I looked like, but on the inside he still carried the same ideals and values that I shared.

It was this sort of symbiotic relationship, where each one of us could stand on his own merit, independent of one another, but in combination, we could become this unstoppable force in the cancer universe and transform ourselves into the Dynamic Duo – and just like that, the idea for Team Sundance was formed.

“Who is Big Billy?”

Simply stated, “He’s the muscle – behind my hustle.”

I decided to call him “Big Billy Bad ***”, because somehow the name just suits him and rolls so easily off the tongue. I wanted him to have the image of a tough looking, no-nonsense type of character that projected the strength and toughness on the exterior that I could never get away with.

I just wanted him to look like and ultimately be a “Bad Mofo.” I wanted him to have an intimidating look, so that cancer could see him coming – and then start beating a path in the opposite direction while the “Gettin’ Was Good.”

The garb he wears is simple and unpretentious – he’s most comfortable in blue jeans, biker and muscle t-shirts, his cool sunglasses, skull cap headwear and either his boots or waffle stompers. He’s built like a fireplug and stouter than a brick $hit house.

Big Billy became my alter-ego in the cancer fight – he’s my ‘go-to’ guy that I reach out for, when I think I’ve had enough of all of this and can’t go the distance anymore – and need a helping hand to get me back on my feet.

Big Billy is the guy that you want to have with you in a street fight, because he’s ‘all-in’ and will stand faithfully by your side and never leave you in your hour of need or time of crisis. He can take a whuppin’ – and he can deliver one too.

Last but not least, Big Billy stands for “Truth, Justice and the Texas Way…”

And that makes him my kind of guy – and maybe yours too.

But, don’t let his appearance fool you though – he looks rough and comes across as such, but underneath all of the “Façade and Bravado”, he’s really got a gentle side about him and a soft nature - unless he’s kicking on some cancer ***

‘Cause when he’s in the fight mode like that…well…“cancer just don’t want none.”

If I could sum Big Billy up in one phrase, it would be this simple creed that he lives his life by…

“He $hits Lightnin’ – and He Craps Thunder.”

That’s who Big Billy is – he’s a friend of mine – and equally important, he’ll be your friend too, if you want him to be. As John Belushi said in the movie Animal House, - “It Don’t Cost Nuthin.’” LOL!

When you look straight through him though, you’ll find that he’s just one of us - a semi;colon and a member of this family. And he is someone who has come to care about each one of you as time has gone by. He has gotten to know each of you from the stories that I’ve shared with him about you.

Big Billy was born as a figment of my fertile imagination on that early dawn morning in 2010 and crystallized himself into the embodiment of an image that I wanted to represent – and he became what I wanted to feel like once more – one of the baddest cancer fighters there ever was – one of the best to ever play the game.

I figured I had gotten to a point in my battle, where I thought I couldn’t do it anymore on my own. I needed help – I needed companionship – I needed someone I could count on that understood me and what I was going through – most importantly, I needed to feel like I had an “On-Demand” friend that I could ‘order up’ when things got too tough for me to handle.

Through “Visualization and Imagery”, Big Billy was ‘born’ and became the end result from all of those needs that weren’t being met. He was my imaginary friend that I conjured out of the Mother of Necessity - just like when we were young kids and needed an imaginary friend for companionship to help keep us entertained.

Big Billy helped me reach that plateau once again on that stone-cold sober dawn in 2010, through his inspiration and tough-guy persona. He showed up – and he’s been with me ever since. He just comes by when he feels he is needed or wanted.

He doesn’t ask if he can help, ‘cause he just knows you do and just shows up for you. Now, that’s a real friend that we could all use – everyday of the week – and twice on Sundays:)

So, that’s the story about how Big Billy came to be.

I don’t know if I properly set it up the first time through, so I wanted all of the new folks to get in on it from the beginning and for the older folks to be filled in on all of the action too after filling in all the blanks. Big Billy got a nice write-up in the book too.

I thought the telling of the “Double B” would be some good fun and entertainment for the group – just something for “$hits and Giggles” to help entertain us and wile away our days, when we needed to take things less seriously for that particular day and needed a light-hearted read and a quick grin.

I appreciate everyone playing along with the gag – it’s all just in good fun anyway. I’ve tried to breathe life into Big Billy – I’ve tried to give him a leg to stand on – I’ve tried to give him a voice through the cancer world.

I think what I’ve been able to do is to harness this image of our inner fighting nature that we all carry with us into our battles and then manifested that into this persona that became something that was tangible and readily identifiable that could represent us all – “The Fightin’ Side of Us” as it were.

Big Billy became the snapshot of what’s on the inside of us that we use to fight our fights with – he’s always been that intangible element that we can feel, but can never see.

Until now…

It turns out that our Big Billy is the quintessential essence of our fighting spirits. He is me – he is all of you…and of course, he’s “Texas Loud – and Texas Proud.”

In the late 80’s, Canon and Andre Agassi coined the popular phrase – “Image is Everything.” In retrospect, they were completely right with their assessment.

Big Billy’s “image” is that of a tuff-guy portrayal – and he is tough, make no mistake about that - but he’s also got thoughts and feelings too – he’s got a sensitive nature and a softer side, but he’s nobody’s fool… (he must get that from me, LOL).

So, to answer the earlier question that started this thread…”Who is Big Billy?” Well, now you know - any questions? If you do, you gotta’ see BB and talk to him about it – good luck!


I think over time you will come to like him and maybe even embrace him. Just like me, he will rub off on you. That didn’t sound right, did it? (hey, keep your minds out of the gutter, lol)

After all – when you look really close at him – you’ll see me in his reflection:)


Stay tuned to the Sundance Channel
“Story Matters Here”


PhillieG's picture
Posts: 4912
Joined: May 2005

I thought Big Billy was from 'Da Bronx!
I agree that we all need Big Billy Bad *** on our side at times...
Great post!

Sundanceh's picture
Posts: 4408
Joined: Jun 2009

Just to quote Norton from "The Honeymooners." LOL!

You like the "AX" Big Billy's holding in his hands?


Thanks for reading:)


LivinginNH's picture
Posts: 1458
Joined: Apr 2010

Hey Craig, That was a really nice post, and it made me smile. We all need a little kick arse from Big Billy every once in a while. :-)



Posts: 2215
Joined: Oct 2011

Now i kno who BB is. Thanks fo pintroducing me to him. It was good reading while i was going through treatment

jjaj133's picture
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Joined: Mar 2011

Craig, Thanks for all of this. I can't wait for BB to talk to us.

tootsie1's picture
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Sundanceh's picture
Posts: 4408
Joined: Jun 2009

As John Belushi said in the movie Animal House - "See if you can guess what I am now?"


I'm the bug!

Okay, okay - I never said I was the funniest in the group:)


Thanks for stopping in and reading everybody! See you next time! Same Bat-Time...Same Bat-Channel...


druidshadow's picture
Posts: 85
Joined: Feb 2012

thanx so much craig with my issues right now i needed that story, thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Sundanceh's picture
Posts: 4408
Joined: Jun 2009

You are WELCOME, brother:)

I'm glad you got something out of this piece, John. It's a true story.

I've been keeping tabs on your story and understand it is a dark time for you right now. You can see that I've walked the path that you find yourselves on right now, so I understand many of the things you are facing and feeling right now.

If I hadn't been there, I wouldn't have the depth to be able to write something like this in the matter and description that I wrote it with. I've had cancer 3x now (rectal/liver/lung) and June of this year, will mark my 8th year battling cancer. We're watching #4 right now, but nothing definitive at this point - time will tell me.

I just want you to know that me and Big Billy are both pulling for you - and if we can get you over the hump at any point in your journey, don't hesitate to let us know.

And just remember, there's a little "Big Billy" in you too...and if you can't find him, I'll send 'my boy' over to help you out:)

Continued best wishes, John!

-Big Billy/Craig

Lorikat's picture
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Joined: Jul 2011

Hummmmm.......I like this guy Big Billy.......I'm gonna go looking my "alter ego".......I'm sure I must have one! Lorikat

Posts: 1428
Joined: Feb 2011

Very nice Craig...I'm finding sometimes now I have to be careful where I read your posts...they at times hit too close to home and can bring me to tears....not a good scene when I'm at work!!!

Sundanceh's picture
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Joined: Jun 2009

When I was writing this post, I had to blot the tears out of my eyes more than once...I try and be cool about it, so nobody will notice...a couple of times I make that sound in my throat like getting choked up...I have to cover up.

I figure if my writing makes me tearful and emotional, then it just might to somebody else.

I'm glad you are sticking with me though - I couldn't stand it if you didn't read them, I mean if you wanted to. Alot of mine aren't lightweight, that's for sure.

I've read this post many times and it brings me to tears everytime...I feel this is one of the best posts I've ever written...it touches many of us that can relate to the content.

I've wondered why this post was lagging...but as you say, the content hits close to home and perhaps folks have not had time to read it - or they've read it and are not sure how to respond to it.

I hope at least folks are reading it....I almost deleted it, but it is helping some folks, so I'm going to let it ride.

Thank you again for reading - your tears tell me that I had my finger firmly on the pulse with this post...and this is a story in many facets that touches us all - and I know we've had these type of feelings.

Your response is the ultimate compliment to me and I thank you for that. I'm glad it moved you. I can't help myself - but you've come to learn and understand that about me - I'm glad.

-Big Billy

Posts: 753
Joined: Apr 2011

Could BB even help me when my M-I-L goes into full-throttle control mode. Cancer is hard enough.
janie in Ga

Sundanceh's picture
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Joined: Jun 2009

By the time Big Billy gets done with her - she'll be talking in tongues, LOL!

Why he'd blow through her like Ex-lax:)

Wouldn't that be a hoot to have BB show up to her doorstep in his regalia? Bet she wouldn't even answer the door, LOL! She'd lock the back door and run for her life:)

I'm sorry, J about all of that...family dynamics can really be something....too many chiefs and not enough indians, it seems.

Show her my pic and tell her to settle down...tell her BB said so:)


Sundanceh's picture
Posts: 4408
Joined: Jun 2009

Hi Lori:)

I just know you will find your 'alter' too!

Iffn' you don't...give me a call and I'll send you out Big Billy in person.

And BTW, Big Billy is available for parties, weddings, and barmitzvahs...


Glad you liked the piece.


Posts: 370
Joined: Aug 2011

Thanks for the intro to Big Billy. Glad to know he's around.


wolfen's picture
Posts: 1330
Joined: Apr 2009

As you know, I'm reading, appreciating, and identifying, just in different ways. Keep strong.

Luv Ya,


Lovekitties's picture
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Joined: Jan 2010

Big Billy, so very glad you have got Craig's back.

We all need someone/some thing to get us thru the dark hours and the challenges awaiting us in the light.

Thank you Craig for letting us into the mind that makes you who you are. It helps on so many levels...showing that one can be vulnerable and strong at the same time...showing that fears can be managed if not overcome...showing that picking a course and moving through it brings some measure of control to a life which seems out of control...showing that humor and fun can still be a part of our life.

Big Billy may be a Badass, but he has got heart!

Hugs to you 'both' and your lady Kim

Marie who loves kitties

Sundanceh's picture
Posts: 4408
Joined: Jun 2009

Those were some beautiful thoughts you wrote and very insightful too - I can see clearly that you "Get It" and understand perfectly who Big Billy is and the role that he plays not only for me, but perhaps for some one else.

There were alot of folks and friends that I wanted to read this and hear back from...but sometimes Life just gets in the way...the story of Big Billy is a true one and is one of my favorite posts that I've ever written in my life...I liked it that much....and I'm really glad that you did too.

Thank you and "Double B" hugs from me and Kim!


Varmint5's picture
Posts: 384
Joined: Feb 2012

You are a very good writer. I can't seem to get my "witching hour" under control. I need some of Big Billy's bad *** attitude to kick it down. You are a great support to everybody here.


Sundanceh's picture
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Joined: Jun 2009

Glad our paths finally crossed:)

I'm glad you liked this piece. Thank you for your kind words. It's an interesting time of the night for many of us...I don't think you ever really get it under control. It seems to be a living entity that breathes on its own and that's because it is fueled by our wants and desires as we lay there mulling it all over and trying to compartmentalize our thoughts and feelings into something that we feel we can manage.

I believe that we have to be open to the possibilities that await us on those nights - we must allow the fears and tears to wash over us and out of us, so that we are cleansed - we must feel that energy flow through our bodies when we feel like we are catching our 2nd wind.

It's sort of like a ritual, really. You know it's coming and if you find yourself awake then turning our attention to this phenomenon and experiencing is a sort of meditation that carries with it a form of healing. It's nature's way of creating files and memories that we build folders for and store within the synapses of our brain, so that we can correlate them and retrieve them for reference when we find ourselves there again.

It's really the comparisons of how you were feeling yesterday to how you are feeling the next time that determines our growth as individuals and how far we've come in our journey.

This is what they don't tell you about in clinic - because they cannot fathom the depths that we dive to when we are by ourselves recovering from their treatments. It's a time for us though, as patients and people, to recognize this time for what it is - and to use it for our constructive benefit.

Only then, do we find ourselves not in charge of the disease itself - rather, we find ourselves in charge of the way that we choose to handle it and we get in tune with whatever emotion is staying with us that night.

Whether it's "Tears and Fears" or "Trials and Smiles", cancer cannot take away that essence of who and what we are and this special time of the night is our healing time to get us ready to do battle again tomorrow.

So remember, "Big Billy" will always be with you - in fact, he's already there:)

There's no going back now, darlin':) LOL!

Continued best wishes!


Posts: 160
Joined: Mar 2011

I still try to check into the site when I can, to see how everyone is. Was so glad to read your post. Have always enjoyed reading anything that you write, as you have such a
talent, getting to the heart of the matter. Everything is still near the surface with me, it is hard to believe John is still gone, it was 2 months this week. At times I feel more
at home reading this site, it seems other people can't possibly understand the world of
cancer. I envy the way you put your feelings on paper, it has to be therapy for you. It
sure effects others that way. My prayers and good wishes are with you. Brenda

Sundanceh's picture
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Joined: Jun 2009

I'm so glad to see you:)

I can only imagine what you must be feeling...I so appreciate you checking in to see us and for responding to this post. It always makes me happy to know that you are reading what I have written...us "writers" are a sensitive lot and I usually leave little to the imagination, so when you pour your heart and soul into something you write, you hope that people will read it.

I'm glad you feel at home here, because you will always have a home here with us. I like it here and am just too wrapped up with the personalities that pervade these walls:)

I've been dealing with my dad in and out of hospitals and nursing homes and why it's not the same thing with you and your John, I am getting an inkling of the things you were describing in his final days...I've seen the "Sundowner's Syndrome" in action with him and it is frightening and upsetting to see it happen.

One night right after we left, he began throwing stuff at the nurse...prior was arugumentative, agitated, confused and just down right out of it. It made me think of you from the descriptions that you had talked about.

I'm just fortunate that on occasion, I've been able to express what I'm feeling and thinking about and can relay that out to all of you. It is the one TRUE JOY that I have in this life...it gives me the greatest joy, not necessarily from writing it, but knowing how it affected the other folks that I was trying to reach out to.

My gifts come from that. Without folks like you, there would be no gift for me to unwrap...and it is what I live for.

Thinking of you and wishing you best wishes - and wishing it could be so much more!

Thank you for taking the time to write to me - you know how that makes me feel...and if you don't, Tony the Tiger said it best...."It's Great!!!"


Aud's picture
Posts: 480
Joined: Oct 2009

hey, Craig. I am not frequently on the board but gotta tell ya. I love Big Billy Bad ***! It is so good to see how you have evolved from those rough times, and how you continue to express yourself, and share with us, through writing. I can only imagine. Yes, I have had the cancer experience, but not to your and some other's, extent. Some things we can only fully understand from experiencing it first hand. Beyond that, we listen to our friends' stories and come to another understanding and know that we are all in this together.

Ever in your Corner,

Sundanceh's picture
Posts: 4408
Joined: Jun 2009

Well,Aud...you have certainly been one of the folks who has seen my transformation since I got here. I'm sure it has been something to witness. I've read my stuff over the past three years and I've seen the changes in myself during that time. I'm sure it has been more profound to see if from off in the distance - certainly much safer, LOL!

I thank you for your continued support and your response was a very nice expression of your thoughts to me. I love it when we go the extra distance....just takes a couple of extra keystrokes to make things even more meaningful. I thank you.

More than anything else - "Thanks for Listening."


Posts: 2215
Joined: Oct 2011

I really needed my "Big Billy" to pull through for me this weekend. The irrinotecan really kicked my butt. Times like this make me question why I am doing chemo whcn there is no evidence of disease at the moment since they were able to cut out the tumors again. I have a scan this month. I am contemplating what to do when the scan comes back clean.

Sundanceh's picture
Posts: 4408
Joined: Jun 2009

I've got something for you this morning, Jeff.

Here is a link to a post that I wrote last year about this time about a month before I finished my last cycle from last year. "The Chemo Wars" - What's the Real Story?


Read this post when you can and it may give you some insight to help you make a decision. I wrote it in the midst of Folfiri (I rewrote it in the book with more clarity), but it was pretty good and I was exploring the issues that you find yourself facing right about now.

No easy answers either way, as you know, Jeff...but still I got a medical opinion from my onc on the subject so it has some relevance, not just my opinion.

Know it sux bad...I barely got through surgery/rad/chemo again last year...you read the Big Billy piece...it was time to put a fork in me 'cuz I was done. I dread the prospects that might await me in the next couple of months.

But for now....just check this out if you want...

Take care!


pete43lost_at_sea's picture
Posts: 3908
Joined: Nov 2010

i am glad you have joined us, or come out of the closet of craigs imagination.
we all need a hand in this challenge of our lives.

here's to showing the way craig, that we all have that fighting spirit.

to give him a name, for him to write posts, is shear brilliance.

its a shame he has to exist, but given our challenges, i am glad he is with each of us.


ps or should that be hugs, BIG Pete

Sundanceh's picture
Posts: 4408
Joined: Jun 2009

Upon further reflection, I've come to the following conclusion:

The Big Billy story is a "Story of Redemption."

It's a story of how cancer took away - and how the human spirit took back!

I'm coming to see Big Billy for myself like the brother I always wanted, but never had. With my sister long ago murdered and no brother or other sibling, it's something I missed and wanted. I think it's important to have siblings to grow up with and have in your life and it's something that can't be manufactured...

...unless you have my warped imagination, LOL!


Sundanceh's picture
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Joined: Jun 2009

bumping up for Vickigl to read.

Vickilg's picture
Posts: 281
Joined: Jan 2011

Oh Craig, your story is beautiful and you have such a way with words. I always feel like I just got a big reassuring hug from you when I read your posts. You have been a true friend and have lifted my spirits on more than one occassion. Have you put your stories together for a book? I just know how much your words would help others. God bless you, Craig!

Sundanceh's picture
Posts: 4408
Joined: Jun 2009

Funny you should ask:)

I did write a book last year after I completed treatment. I've been trying to find an agent to represent me to the publishing companies, because the publishing world is such a steep hill to climb all by yourself.

But right now - the publishing world doesn't want me:)

It seems they just aren't ready for me yet:) LOL!

Oh, well, maybe one day....I'm glad that you are though:)

I'm glad this helped you some....I'm pulling out all the stops for you:)

Take care and thanks for reading.....


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