Facing terminal cancer, Salisbury Police officer still focuses on others

Published 12:00 am Saturday, February 4, 2012

By Nathan Hardin
SALISBURY — For Salisbury Police Officer Wiley Lamm, being diagnosed with terminal cancer wasn’t the worst part of being at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center.
For Lamm, who has spent his career working to help victims and repair bad situations, the worst part was seeing sick children.
“I’ve kind of done what I’ve wanted to do all my life,” Lamm said, pushing back tears. “You go up there, and you see those kids … but me, I’ve lived a full life.”
Lamm is the victim advocacy officer for the Salisbury Police Department, his home for the last 19 years.
He was diagnosed in January with an advanced stage of cancer, which started near his pancreas and moved into his bones.
The guy with the ‘big heart’
Lamm is known around the department as the guy with the “big heart,” several officers, including friend and former beat partner Capt. Melanie Thompson, said.
“He’s really done a lot for the victim advocate program. He’ll go to court with them. He’ll help them move furniture,” Thompson said, “He’s been known to go on his day off to help people that he’s met.”
Thompson is one of Lamm’s closest friends in the department and frequently worked with him in the field before he transferred to victim advocacy.
“He’s a good friend, a good partner. He’s one of those people that actually cares for victims, especially elderly,” Thompson said.
Lamm got into law enforcement after a Sheriff’s Office deputy talked to him about it.
“He kind of encouraged me,” Lamm said. “I’ve always enjoyed helping people.”
Before moving to the Salisbury Police Department, Lamm worked at the East Spencer Police Department.
“I really enjoyed it,” he said. “There was really an awful lot of good people up there.”
An outdoorsman
Sitting in his Rockwell home recently, Lamm spoke about his career, his love of the outdoors and his recent diagnosis.
A hunter and fisherman, Lamm was glad to be home, which is surrounded by bare corn and soy fields, after spending more than a week at the hospital. Since being interviewed, Lamm has been back to the hospital twice.
Among fishing boats and outbuildings, a pair of Chevy IIs sat outside Lamm’s home. He’s had several other cars that he’s fixed up and sold, he said, and he’s waiting for fishing season to begin.
Lamm may be most publicly recognized as organizer of the annual Christmastime bicycle giveaway.
This year, he fears, may have been his last ride.
“The kids’ faces,” he said, is what he’ll miss most.
“A bike to anybody means a lot,” he said, “but especially to those kids out there (during Christmas). They don’t have what I have.”
The same sentiment has made seeing the cancer-stricken children so unbearable at Wake Forest Medical Center in Winston-Salem, where Lamm continues undergoing surgeries chemotherapy sessions to treat the incurable cancer.
But Lamm is staying positive about his condition and hopes he’ll get a chance to help with the bike giveaway next year.
“If I’m around, I’m going to help them in some way,” he said.
A patrol officer for 16 years at the Salisbury Police Department, Lamm took over the victim advocate position in 2009.
‘Bad thingsto good people’
Police Chief Rory Collins said Lamm took the position “very seriously” when he took over the vacant role.
“He’s the kind of guy that would do anything within reason for another person to help him.,” Collins said. “He always takes his time to make sure he’s providing a good service.”
Although unmarried with no kids, Lamm’s family is made up of his fellow officers and the hundreds of victims he’s helped through the Family Crisis Council and battered women’s shelter.
The worst part of his job, he said, are death notifications.
“You see so many people that are in so much turmoil,” he said. “Such sad situations. But they usually come through, and in the end, it feels good to be able to help them to make it a little easier.”
Lamm’s diagnosis — which moved from bad to worse within days — shocked friends and coworkers.
Collins said Lamm’s fellow officers are keeping him in their thoughts and prayers.
“You hear the expression, ‘Bad things happen to good people,’ ” Collins said. “He’s one of those good people that’s got something bad going on.”
Lamm has helped with the bicycle giveaway since it started, but has been the primary organizer for just the last few years.
Through tears, he recalled one year where they ended one bicycle short. Co-organizers at Gerry Wood Auto immediately bought another bike so officers could finish their Christmas eve runs.
“The best part about my job was just feeling at the end of the day that you made a difference,” he said.