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Benefit to help woman fight a ‘silent killer’

Penny Williamson
Penny Williamson

ROCK FALLS – For as long as anyone can remember, Penny Williamson has helped others.

“They’d give food. They’d let friends or relatives stay if they needed a place to stay,” Stephanie George of Sterling said of her parents, Penny and John Williamson.

Now, her family is hoping there are a lot of people out there just like Penny – people willing to lend a hand.

The 55-year-old is battling a disease described as a “silent killer” – cancer.

The disease has forced Penny to travel to Geneva for chemotherapy after the jarring diagnosis in November.

Penny grew up in Sterling and moved 3 years ago to Rock Falls with John. A stay-at-home mom to four children, Penny also worked at Casey’s General Store in Milledgeville, and at Walmart and Coventry Village in Sterling. She also has 11 grandchildren.

The day after Halloween, Stephanie and her mom were talking on the phone when Penny’s speech suddenly became slurred.

“I honestly thought she’d had a stroke,” George said, recalling the incident.

Her family took her to CGH Medical Center in Sterling, where she underwent an MRI scan, and doctors found the first of two glioblastomas, or tumors, starting in the brain’s supportive tissue. She was flown to Central DuPage Hospital, where another MRI found the second tumor.

Brain surgery to conduct a biopsy confirmed the diagnosis of stage 4 glioblastoma, which sometimes isn’t detected as early as other cancers because its symptoms are similar to other conditions – a caffeine headache, for example.

“The oncologist told us glioblastoma is a silent killer,” George said.

There is no cure for glioblastoma, but treatment can prolong a person’s life. Williamson’s been undergoing treatment 5 days a week since November. She’s on chemotherapy, as well as a steroid to keep swelling down around the tumor and help prevent aphasia, an inability to speak coherently.

To help defray medical and travel costs, a benefit for will be held March 18 at Wagon Wheel, 1711 W. Fourth St. Doors open at noon, with Mexican food plates for $5 each and hot dog plates for $3 each. A cake walk and bake sale are planned. D.J. Chaos Productions will provide music.

A 50-50 raffle will be drawn, with tickets for $1 each or $5 for six. Door prizes will be raffled for $1 per ticket or $10 for 15 tickets. There will also be a live auction. Donations for the auction are still being sought; call George at 815-590-2873 to donate or for more information.

Go to to make financial donations.

What is glioblastoma?

According to Cancer Treatment Centers of America, glioblastoma forms on the brain's supportive tissue, and can appear in any lobe of the brain, but most often in the frontal or temporal lobes (lobes beneath the temples). The cancer usually affects adults.

Depending on the tumor's location, symptoms can include persistent headaches, double or blurred vision, nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, changes in mood or personality, changes in ability to think and learn, memory loss, new onset of seizures, muscle weakness, difficulty with speech.

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