Alicea has been touched by the outpouring of support from friends, family, neighbors and strangers. "No matter what happens, this has been an incredible experience," he said.
"You've got this, Will"
A 40th birthday wish like no other
Story and photos by Sherry Mazzocchi
William Alicea got his last Smurf bag this past Friday afternoon.
That's what he calls the plastic packets containing chemotherapy drugs that drip from an IV into his body.
The shocking blue color reminds him of the popular Saturday morning cartoon characters. He likes to tell visitors it goes in blue, but comes out green.
Acute myeloid leukemia has not dulled his sense of humor.
Alicea is the neighborhood's favorite graphic artist and apparel designer, better known as WiLL TeeZ, Diagnosed with the disease in late June, he has been at Mount Sinai ever since.
Alicea doesn't have health insurance. When word got around about his modest Indiegogo campaign to raise funds for what promises to be a huge medical bill, many residents throughout northern Manhattan and the Bronx stepped up and helped out.
At times the outpouring of love and generosity has overwhelmed him, moving him to tears.
Over a hundred people bearing gifts, food and love have visited in the past few weeks. Friends are organizing fundraisers at local venues.
People he's never met have contributed to his campaign.
He even received a card from a 10-year-old boy in another state.
The boy said he'd survived two types of cancer, adding, "You've got this, Will."
He gets misty-eyed when he talks about it.
"I may have an ARRRGH exterior," he said, referring to his Leo sun sign. "But the inside is jelly doughnut. People have been hitting the jelly doughnut left and right."
He has huge amounts of gratitude for the love, kindness and support people have given.
"No matter what happens, this has been an incredible experience," he said. "Incredible."
An experience that makes him thankful for having the disease.
When asked to explain that remarkable statement, he said certain past relationships hadn't worked out. It left him with a feeling of "bad blood."
"And what is leukemia? Well... bad blood," he said.
He believes those deeply buried feelings manifested physically in the form of cancer. He's been trying to purify his self of those emotions, and he believes the disease is the linchpin in his process of spiritual development.
During his stay in the hospital, several people from the past have come seeking reconciliation.
Alicea is really glad to see them. He considers it yet another blessing.
He said, "I got a half dozen people back that I really love."
Once all of the bad blood is gone, he said the only thing he will refill that reservoir with is love.
Doctors say the reservoir needs a little more work. The first round of chemo got rid of most of the cancer, but not all. They added a second, more aggressive, round of chemo.
Alicea is hoping those Smurf bags will do the trick.
He will spend at least three more weeks – including his 40th birthday – in the hospital.
He is confident he will walk out in complete remission and give up his bed to someone who really needs it.
The hospital staff finds him refreshing. His doctor puts Alicea last on his rounds because he wants to leave feeling good.
Even a Mount Sinai chaplain walked out smiling.
"I like it when I walk into a room as a chaplain," she said. "and don't feel a need to do anything."
To find out more about Will Teez and how to help, please visit http://www.indiegogo.com/willteez.
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