For three months during the spring of his junior year of high school, Willie went to various doctors to try to identify a pain in his leg. The night of his first CloverStreet concert, Willie discovered a lump above his knee. Osteosarcoma had invaded the Tichenor family’s reality.
Over the next three years, Willie endured 12 surgical procedures, 32 intensive chemotherapy treatments, 12 blood transfusions, and 17 hospital stays. During the same time frame, he also graduated from high school, made a road trip to Florida with his friends during spring break, got a job with his church, performed with his band at the South by Southwest Festival, rented his own apartment, led a church youth group mission to build houses in Juarez, Mexico, and attended the University of Texas. On the mission trip to Mexico, a friend asked him how he was able to push his body physically during the construction process. Willie’s response was, “because I love the feeling that I get when I make a difference in someone else’s life.”
Throughout this incredibly challenging time, his family and friends stayed by his side. But it was an easy thing to do, because Willie’s optimism and strength were contagious. Most of the time, his friends had no idea how Willie was suffering. Willie was engaged in life - he wasn’t naive or in denial, but he didn’t want to waste any time bemoaning his fate.
Before Willie left for college, CloverStreet held one last gig. More than 250 people attended the final performance in June 2005, which Willie fondly remembered for his tight jeans and as the “end of a beautiful chapter in his life.”
Willie did everything possible to survive, and everything possible to live his life. He was a good patient, took every opportunity available to him, and kept hoping for a new treatment. But, eventually, Willie ran out of options.
During his final weeks, Willie was surrounded by the people who he loved, and who loved him. The Tichenors’ home became a nest for all of his friends and family that wanted to be near Willie and share his final days. It was a time filled with tears, laughter, unimaginable goodbyes, and reflection.
Then, unthinkably, it was over. Willie died on March 15, 2006.