‘I’m cautiously optimistic’: After being given three to six months to live, Davis in remission

Ben and Casey Davis sit on a park bench with their four children, from left, Gunnar, Braxton, Axyla and MaKayla. Wendy Nugent/Newton Now

Editor’s note: This is a followup article to one Newton Now printed in February about Ben Davis’s battle with cancer.

By Wendy Nugent, Newton Now

Goessel residents Ben and Casey Davis had different reactions when they learned there no longer were any signs of cancer in Ben, whose body had become frail during the last nine months fighting the disease.

After Ben was diagnosed with Stage 4 metastatic colon cancer in late 2017, he was only given three to six months to live. What followed were surgeries and aggressive cancer treatment. He’s beaten the odds.

Casey cried when they learned the positive news and Ben was more concerned for his wife and the mother of their four children than he was about himself.

In the moment, I was more concerned with her,” Ben said. “It was a good cry, a good show of emotion.”

It was relief,” Casey said.

Although the news of Ben being in remission hit Casey immediately, it took a while for Ben to process it.

For me, it took days,” he said after the news on June 28 from oncologist Dr. Bassam I. Mattar with Cancer Center of Kansas.

Casey also was in a bit of disbelief.

I woke up maybe five times that night to listen to (our message on Facebook about Ben being in remission) to make sure I wasn’t dreaming,” she said.

I’m in remission,” Ben said, smiling and sitting at a large coffee shop table with his family. He said he had recently gone in to get PET and CT scans. “And then we went in to get the results.”

Mattar told them cancer can’t be cured and that Ben is just in remission.

He made sure he had the correct name on the scan he looked at, just to make sure he had the right name,” Ben said. “This was after he told us. He probably chuckled a little bit.”

Casey also talked about another emotion they experienced in the doctor’s office.

We were shocked,” she said.

I wasn’t expecting remission, but I know I’d been recovering some,” Ben said.

When he went to have the tests done, those doing them joked with him at first, not helping him onto the table. After the testing was over, they seemed more serious and wanted to help him off the bed. Ben took that as a potentially negative sign.

They seemed more concerned,” Ben said.

But thoughts about that were for naught.

The first person Ben told about being in remission was his dad.

The first person I told was my dad because he was outside,” Ben said, adding his dad, Glen, was at a client’s house. “He was just weeping on the phone,” but he had to hang up because he was with a realtor. Ben cried with his dad.

Three of their kids were with Ben’s mom, and Ben told them with his mom at her house. Since his daughter, MaKayla was elsewhere, Ben sent her message, which she didn’t open until getting home.

I just started crying,” MaKayla said. “It was a happy cry, instead of a bad cry.”

Months after Ben was diagnosed, he was hooked up to a chemo pump for three days every 11 days, he said, and now he’ll have maintenance chemo, which he’ll get every Wednesday for three weeks and then have one week off.

I don’t have a stop date,” he said. “When he feels comfortable, we’ll stop it.”

Ben said that since he’s fairly young and the cancer was so aggressive, he has a better chance of living on lighter doses.

Hopefully, I won’t have as many side effects,” he said. “Hopefully, I can get back to work.”

Ben, who works for Davis Pest Control in Newton, has been off work since Halloween because of the back-to-back surgeries and chemo treatments.

He has also been able to let go of his rage, which was not for himself, but for his family.

For me, it took days,” he said. “It was almost like decompression. You let go of the rage. That’s what I felt through the whole thing, was rage.”

The rage served a purpose.

That’s what kept me alive, was rage,” he said. “No one saw it. That was what was feeding the fire—how scared my family was. That made me angry that I couldn’t fix it.”

Casey said it’s difficult to describe how she felt.

It’s hard to put into words, because I was getting a second chance at happiness with him,” she said. “It was like the first time since he had been sick and I was getting my husband back and my kids were getting their dad back. They hadn’t lost their dad, I know. I wasn’t going to have to raise four kids on my own.”

We had a future, at least, more than what we had,” Ben added.

Throughout the process, Casey said one of the biggest things she’s noticed is when they were out and about taking their kids to various activities, people always had “that look.” It was a sad look, a concerned look. Ben had ceased being just Ben, he was “cancer guy.”

Ben said when he’d interact with people, it was always different. Folks either would “run for the hills” to avoid talking to him or they’d speak with him and mourn him in person.

It’s just very surreal,” he said. “It was just weird.”

The ordeal also has brought people closer to the Davises. For instance, people in the United States, Spain, England and Rome prayed for him.

The whole world was praying for you, Baby,” Casey said, adding people in Goessel and Newton have been quite supportive. Even the Team Davis T-shirt says, “No one fights alone.”

They had community support, prayers and the skills of doctors and nurses.

Thank you all for your encouragement, prayers and overall love for my family,” Casey wrote on the Team Davis Facebook page. “I can’t begin to describe what we are feeling. We have been blessed so many times over this stormy chapter in our lives. But, we are ready to start another chapter, a much happier one full of family and friends.”

On Sept. 22, there will be a softball tournament fundraiser in Goessel for the family. It’s called the First Annual Fall Brawl Co-ed Softball Tournament. Team cost is $200, which is due by Sept. 1. For information, contact Tony Conrady at conrady86@gmail.com or 316-217-4031.

However, the couple said they no longer need financial help from the community.

It’s somebody else’s turn,” Ben said. “We’ve received more than our fair share. There’s no amount of thanks and appreciation to describe how we feel. Everybody was just amazing.”

Ben said he plans to find his surgeon, Dr. McEachern, and give him a hug. Ben hasn’t seen the doctor since his surgeries.

Although things have turned out for the good, Casey recalls when she was in McEachern’s office when Kim, his nurse, told her about the cancer. Kim took Casey into a room and counseled her, saying it was one of the worst cases they had ever seen.

I remember her saying that he was very ill,” Casey said.

When Ben was going through surgeries and treatment, one of their sons, Braxton, got protective of his dad, sleeping with him and scolding people when they weren’t nice to Ben. The kids also got a little rambunctious.

Now that Dad’s feeling better, gotta get em towing the line again,” Ben said.

I’m proud of how the kids are handling it,” Casey added.

Ben said his part in the ordeal was simple.

All I really had to do was stay alive and let the doctors do their thing,” he said. “All I had to do was keep breathing. My part was not complicated.”

He also said God gave the doctors their talents, and now the family can restore the childhood illusion that Dad is Superman.

But, they believe prayers certainly helped, also.

When you have nowhere to turn, you turn to your faith,” Casey said.

Praying is like meditation,” Ben added. “There’s something like that, mind over matter.”

Although they have renewed reasons for hope, they remain wary.

There’s a big relief, I’d say,” Ben said. “The fight’s not over yet.”

I’m cautiously optimistic,” Casey added.