Willie Cole's devotion to working hard and fighting through adversity was developed early. As a child in Brooklyn, Willie Cole saw his mom ride the subway each day, back and forth to two jobs. As if that wasn't hard enough, Willie also saw his mom return back home at different times during the day to help the kids with homework, fixe them dinner and generally take care of them.
Willie grew up without a father and it was a hard life making ends meet, but he didn't shrink from doing whatever it took to survive and succeed. And when Willie became a father, he worked even harder so that his kids would never go without.
So when he was diagnosed with cancer in 2000, he faced that challenge with the same determination his mother demonstrated every day of her life.
He received a transplant in 2002 and his brother Terrell was the donor. The recovery was hard, naturally, but hard work is not unusual for Willie. He is a survivor.
Now that he is well again, Willie understands that being a father is more than providing for his family. It's about getting closer to his wife and children, his mother and his sisters and brothers. He draws inspiration from them and said, "They're my strength."
Willie has taken that strength from his family and has turned it towards helping fellow cancer patients who he feels need to hear positive words from a survivor. He has returned to the University of Alabama Birmingham Medical Center to talk to patients and offer them encouragement through the transplant process and recovery.
On the private side, Willie is grateful for the love of his children and wife and he feels blessed that he can be there for them.