Spider bite saves three friends' lives

Westhoff working in his garage.
Westhoff working in his garage.

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - The Montgomery Metro Relay for Life is fast approaching and the signs are all around us. On Wednesday night the American Cancer Society previewed the event and to draw attention to the fight against cancer.

The Alabama Capitol building has even changed colors. Around 6pm a purple 'Beam of Hope' lit up the stately building. Purple, of course, is the signature color for Relay for Life.

Organizers hope the change will remind people about the fight against cancer. Relay is a time to remember those who lost the fight, and those who beat the disease.


A spider is to thank for three best friends who are proud to say they survived cancer.

Working with stained glass is a labor of love for Mike Westhoff, but for over a year he put his favorite pastime on hold. On February 17, 2008 a tornado slammed into the Westhoff's Prattville home and though the family thought it couldn't get much worse, it did. "I thought, you've gotta be kidding me," Westhoff said. Westhoff went on to explain how a spider bite saved his life, his friends life and yet a third friend's life.

"A friend of mine got a spider bite, in the groin of all places and it turned out that he ended up going to a urologist." When the doctor asked if the friend had ever had a prostate exam the answer was "no." A test revealed his friend David had prostate cancer.

In calling to check on his friend, David's wife asked Westhoff to promise he, himself, would get checked. True to his word, Westhoff made an appointment and discovered he too had prostate cancer. "In the first week you're thinking 'I am going to live?'" he remembered. " How bad is this going to be?"

The cancer was aggressive.

"On a scale of zero to ten, ten being the worst, I was an eight" Cancer covered more than 70% of his prostate gland."

After learning about Westhoff's cancer the wife of a third friend became concerned about her husband's health. "She said, 'Well Johnny needs to get checked.'" Sure enough, Johnny Mcwilliams discovered he also had the dreadful disease.

The three friends all went to the same doctor, at the same hospital, for the same surgery. Today, each is doing well. Their cancer was caught in time and all because of a spider bite.

"If I had waited another year, or two years, it may have spread," Westhoff said. "It may have been too late...I consider myself very fortunate to be alive and have two friends alive."

Now, the men are encouraging everyone to get a physical on a regular basis. Westhoff said he didn't have any signs or symptoms.

This story touches very close to home here at WSFA 12 News. Westhoff's daughter, Brooke Bailey, produces WSFA 12 News at 6:00 and 10:00 each night.

Brooke, her entire family, and the Mcwilliams will all be out at Relay for Life on May 1st.

If you can would like to get involved this Friday, click here to find more information.