IU Health Simon Cancer Center

“I have a lot of priorities. Cancer doesn’t make my top ten”

Patient Story

A diagnosis of colon cancer taught Brad Davis the importance of self-care.

By T.J. Banes, IU Health Senior Journalist, tfender1@iuhealth.org

He’s a husband to Julie and father to four daughters. What Brad Davis learned through his cancer diagnosis is this: “If I don’t take care of myself, I’m being selfish. I have a wife and a family who count on me. I want to be around to see all the goodness – college graduations, grandchildren, and more.”

After weeks of experiencing loose stools and bleeding, Davis went to his family practitioner in Columbus, Ind. He was 47 – three years shy of the recommended age for his first colonoscopy. But the test confirmed that Davis had several polyps and a large mass. A biopsy confirmed he had colon cancer.

“We were at the movies with friends when I got a phone call from an unknown number. I ignored the call and then Julie got the same call. Since we were waiting on test results, we stepped out of the movies and took the call,” said Davis. It was September of 2017. By October he was a patient of Dr. Safi Shahda at IU Health Simon Cancer Center and began four rounds of chemotherapy.

A friend and client who had been treated at IU Health for colon cancer recommended Dr. Patrick Loehrer. But Dr. Loehrer was out of the country at the time and recommended Dr. Shahda. Both are oncologist with IU Health Simon Cancer Center.

“I know the reputation of Simon Cancer Center so it was easy to follow my friend’s instructions,” said Davis. “We came prepared with questions when we met with Dr. Shahda and he very patiently answered all of our questions. We very much appreciated that he explained it so we could understand. I no longer complain about waiting for my doctor's appointment because I know he is taking time with another patient.”

When they first heard the diagnosis, Brad told his wife: “I want you to get a good cry in and then be done. I never saw her cry again. She did it but I didn’t’ see it.”

A former member of the Franklin College basketball team, Davis said he learned early on that cancer doesn’t discriminate. “Instead of asking, ‘why me,’ I thought ‘why not me?’”

After completing chemotherapy and getting an “all clear” Davis began to advocate for routine screenings. He has done public speaking, media interviews and friend-to-friend advocacy. He’s also advocated for lowering the screening age to 45. The American Cancer Society now recommends anyone at risk for colon cancer to be screened at age 45.

“I remember one day coming to Indianapolis after my diagnosis and I had an incredible peace. I feel like part of the reason it happened to me is I’m not shy,” said Davis. “I’m outspoken and I can count a coupled dozen people that I’ve talked into getting a colonoscopy. A couple caught things in the precancerous stage.”

When he went for his second colonoscopy, he invited a television crew into the room. He wanted to document the procedure in an attempt to advocate for the screening.

“I have a lot of priorities – family, faith, my profession and my community,” said Davis. “Cancer doesn’t make the top ten but I do want to make others aware of the importance of listening to your body and taking care of yourself.”

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Cancer care includes a variety of treatments, systematic therapies, surgery and clinical trials.

Colon Cancer

Most colon cancers start as polyps that grow out of tiny glands lining the large intestine. Many have colon polyps but most don’t turn into cancer.