Article - Office of College Advancement

Ohlone College board chairman to undergo cancer treatment

By Matthew Artz, The Argus.

Thursday, December 18, 2008—Reprinted from Inside Bay Area.

Fremont—Ohlone College board Chairman Bill McMillin had been ill for weeks when he finally went in for a bone marrow test Monday.

Before the doctor inserted the needle, McMillin asked how often the results showed leukemia.

"When he said 25 percent, I said, 'Oh, the odds are with me,' " McMillin recounted. "But it turns out I'm in the 25 percent."

McMillin has been diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, a fast-growing cancer of the white blood cells.

Although his doctors told him they need to conduct more tests before determining his chances for survival, McMillin knows that this illness is far more serious than the prostate cancer he beat five years ago.

"Some of the things I've read said (recovery) is 50/50," he said. "But what they define as recovery is to live another five years. I'm still planning to live 30 years."

McMillin, 66, said he expects to be admitted next week to Stanford Hospital, where he will stay for about a month while undergoing chemotherapy. He hopes to be chairing Ohlone board meetings again in February.

A former grade-school teacher and principal, McMillin came to Newark more than 20 years ago to work in commercial real estate. Before he was first elected to the Ohlone board in 2002, he helped broker the deal for the college to buy the land that is now its Newark campus.

"Bill has always given 100 percent to the college," trustee Garrett Yee said. "We are all concerned for Bill and will be keeping him in our thoughts and prayers."

McMillin knew something was wrong about a month ago when his feet were so swollen and his body so achy that he had to cancel his regular tennis match.

He went for blood tests, which pointed to cancer. Finally, he had the definitive bone marrow test.

Despite the diagnosis, McMillin said he feels a little better recently than when his symptoms first appeared.

"Right now, my left leg feels like someone kicked me in the back of it," he said. "I've lost 11 pounds in the last month. Unfortunately, it wasn't where I was trying to lose it."

McMillin, who recently had his barber give him a crew cut, is now preparing himself for chemotherapy. If that doesn't put the cancer into remission, the next option could be a bone-marrow transplant, he said.

Although this is his second bout with cancer in five years, McMillin takes comfort in knowing he comes from sturdy stock. His father lived to age 90, one of his grandmothers lived to 97, and his 90-year-old mother is still alive.

"I've got strong reasons to live," McMillin said. "I've got two great kids and two great grandkids. I still plan to live to be 90."

Reach Fremont reporter Matthew Artz at 510-353-7002 or

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