By Wendy Nugent, Newton Now
Ben Davis was given three to six months to live. He’s already starting to beat the odds, since that was about four months ago.
And that was after being diagnosed with having Stage 4 metastatic colon cancer, which means it was really bad and had spread to other parts of his body.
Initially, medical professionals suspected he might have lymphoma because his lymph nodes were affected.
Davis experienced systems way before he was diagnosed.
“My first sign was just fatigue,” he said. “I was working out three days a week, and I was just tired.”
Eventually, he didn’t even have the energy to do that anymore. Now, he’s also lost the ability to even get out or wrestle with his kids.
Because of his symptoms, Davis thought he might have irritable bowel syndrome, so he visited his primary care physician on Oct. 2. From there, the primary-care physician, Dr. Michael Williams sent the 2000 Newton High School graduate to a local surgeon, Dr. John McEachern, who then did CT scans and thought he had lymphoma.
“I’ve had every scan under the sun,” Davis said.
The next step was to do a biopsy from his neck, and it was found he had metastasized cancer in his lymph nodes.
“That’s when they ordered a colonoscopy,” Davis’s wife Casey said. Casey and Ben both were born and raised in Newton, and now they reside in Goessel with their four children, MaKayla, 15; Gunnar, 13; Braxton, 9; and Axyl, 5.
When they went to do the colonoscopy, they weren’t able to because they found an 8-centimeter-sized tumor in the colon.
“Two weeks later, the tumor was removed,” Casey said. That was Nov. 7.
About a foot of Davis’s colon was taken, as well.
“It’s kind of just a big blur for me because every two weeks, I’m under anesthesia,” Davis said.
With the surgery came some complications, so Davis was hooked up to a wound vac, and Davis said he’s gotten used to being attached to all kinds of medical equipment.
Now, he’s under the care of oncologist Dr. Matter with the Cancer Center of Kansas, who works out of McEachern’s office.
With the surgery behind him, Davis, who works for Davis Pest Control in Newton, is getting aggressive chemotherapy treatments, which he started on Jan. 3 and does every 11 days. As of Thursday, Feb. 1, he was on his third chemo treatment, and for those, he wears a chemo IV pump for three days at a time.
“They’re hitting it pretty aggressive,” Davis said. “I can feel it’s working. I’m gaining weight. I’m breathing better.”
He also said there’s less pain, and he’s breathing better because his organs aren’t pushing together like they were because of swollen lymph nodes, drowning out his lungs.
He said he’s assuming the treatment is working, because he’s feeling better.
Through this ordeal, Davis said he’s lost 100 pounds.
“I used to be a big fella,” he said.
Before he was diagnosed, Davis lost about 40 pounds, and then he dropped around 60 while going through his treatments, what with the nausea and all. However, he’s gained 10 pounds back.
“It was nice to see the number go up instead of down,” Davis said.
There’s no date set as of now to discontinue Davis’s treatment, and the Davises said there’s also no date set yet to find out if the chemo is working.
“They’re going to push as hard as we can go,” Davis said, adding his treatment schedule goes through the first week of March, and then he’ll get another treatment schedule for the next 40 days.
“I don’t ask a whole lot of questions,” Davis said. “I just do what I’m told. I’m not a doctor. I know how to kill bugs and capture animals. He knows what he’s doing.”
In light of that, things Davis used to do aren’t as easy for him now. One of the hardest things, Casey said, is watching him not being able to do those things, like go to their kids’ activities.
“I do everything to keep him involved,” Casey said. “He’s not able to go anywhere now.”
Keeping him involved includes Casey using Snapchat to allow him to “attend” kids’ basketball games.
Even with all that, Davis said he’s through the worst of the cancer treatment. One particular difficult time he had was when they visited his wife’s grandmother, Carmen Sauceda. at Thanksgiving. Since he has nausea all the time, he said it was almost torture smelling the freshly made Mexican food and not being able to eat it. He was glad, though, that he could get joy out of the smell.
“That’s tough, living off water and juice and protein drinks,” Davis said.
The nausea is just one of his symptoms.
“Every treatment, there’s something different,” he said.
He’s also had burning skin, mouth and hand cramps, and finger numbness. There’s been no talk about radiation, because the tumor was removed. One interesting side effect is, before he had cancer, he shaved his head bald for years because he was growing bald, and now, he still has his hair. One of their kids, Braxton, said Davis looks like a “mad scientist” with his unruly hair.
Davis said they’ve given him a couple of chemo drugs.
“They’re doing everything they can,” he said.
The communities of Newton and Goessel appear to be doing everything they can to help the family out. Trishia Wells started the “Team Davis” bracelets, where people can get them for a suggested donation of $5 at American Family Insurance, 2309 S. Kansas Road, in Newton. Guerrilla Marketing in Newton also is making Team Davis T-shirts, and folks can pick those up at a suggested donation of $20 at the T-Shirt Bar in Newton, as the family has incurred medical expenses and Davis can’t work right now.
“We’re already had a lot of support,” Davis said. “The Goessel community and Newton community have been supportive. It’s overwhelming and humbling—the amount of compassion.” He also said customers have helped out, as have the Goessel schools where their kids attend.
In addition, the Ben and Cassandra Davis Special Fund is set up at Central National Bank, where folks can donate to help the family.
Accepting help for the Davises isn’t easy. Casey said she’s usually the one doing the giving, as she’s been in charge of the local coat drive the past two years. They’re used to giving and not asking for help.
“The support’s been amazing,” Casey said. “That’s why we put on our shirt ‘No One Fights Alone.’ We feel it. We see it.”
“I can’t thank everybody enough,” Davis said. “The prayers, the well wishes, how they’ve helped my kids. I can’t thank everybody enough for it.”
The couple, who’s been married for almost 13 years, has learned from their journey.
“Appreciate every day, and don’t worry about the stupid, petty crap,” Casey said.
Davis echoed those thoughts of gratitude.
“I am grateful to live where we live—the country we live in, the state we live in, the community we live in,” he said. “I’ve always been grateful for it, and now I have a deeper appreciation.”
This ordeal also has helped Casey rely on God.
“I haven’t been the most religious person, but it’s been proven and proven that God will always provide for us—through friends, family and prayers,” she said. “Our family has been affected by cancer, by parents, grandparents, but when it happens in your house, it really opens your eyes.”
Something Davis learned about himself has to do with strength.
“I didn’t realize how strong I am,” he said. “I’m just proud of how I keep it together. You can’t be down. You always gotta be positive.”
He also takes his roles as father and husband seriously, saying his wife and kids still can lean on him.
“No matter how sick I get, that’ll always be the case,” he said. “It’s a father’s job, a husband’s job. It’s an example. My dad was an example to me. I’ve gotta be an example to my children.”
He’s also an example for his community, and Casey wants people to learn something from this.
“If you think you’re sick, go to the doctor,” she said. “If you think something’s wrong, get it checked out. It’ll save your life.”