Ryan’s Story

On his 31st birthday, life was pretty good for Ryan Davis. He and his wife, Heather, were building a new house in Springboro to raise their two daughters, Avery and Hadley, both under the age of 4. 

Best of all, Ryan had successfully recovered from a potentially deadly episode that previous summer. When he had had chest pain mowing the lawn, a trip to the emergency department at Miami Valley Hospital South revealed his left anterior descending artery had a 95 to 99 percent blockage. The insertion of a coronary stent opened Ryan’s artery, followed by 12 weeks of cardiac rehab. He was resuming his active life, which included he and Heather being active runners.    

So in January 2016, Ryan had much to be grateful for. He didn’t know he was in for the fight of his life.

“I had been having headaches for about a month before my birthday, but I attributed that to our crazy life of being busy young parents and building a house,” Ryan says with a laugh. But that day, the head pain was intense. Ryan found he couldn’t stand up. Once again, he and Heather went to Miami Valley Hospital South

After a CT scan , Ryan and Heather were hit with devastating news: Ryan had a brain tumor, an adult-onset medulloblastoma originating in the back part of the brain. While such cancer is the most common malignant brain tumor in children, it is rarely found in adults. 

“Your world crashes when you hear a diagnosis of brain cancer,” he says. “You think of your wife, your kids, your life, and how nothing will be the same.”

Ania G. Pollack, MD, of Premier Health recommended surgery, which took place on January 27 at Miami Valley Hospital. Dr. Pollock, using a sophisticated system which enables neurosurgeons to precisely plan the surgery by visualizing the patient’s anatomy in 3D before and during surgery, removed the 4 cm x 4 cm tumor in a surgery that lasted nearly seven hours. 

To help kill any remaining cancer cells, chemotherapy  and radiation were also scheduled. Ryan Steinmetz, MD, an oncologist radiologist, used two different radiation treatments: external beam radiation therapy, the most common form of radiation, and internal radiation (brachytherapy) which implants radiation close to where the tumor had been.  

Recovering from surgery and keeping up with additional testing, eight chemo sessions, 31 radiation treatments, therapies, and other medical appointments ruled Ryan’s life for most of 2016. “I had more days ‘with stuff’ than days of no appointments,” he says. “I wrestled with depression – and still do even today. But I found I had to fill my mind with positive thoughts, to keep going, to move forward.” 

Ryan says he’s now a big believer in “Let go and let God.” His days of “being a control freak” are over, he says with relief. 

Ryan’s sense of humor remains intact. He said while chemo is hard, so is being a parent, after all! Of course, parenting while recovering from brain cancer has additional pressures. “There were many days when Heather had to do everything for our daughters and I couldn’t even help her get the girls dressed,” says Ryan. “I had to battle cancer while raising kids and raise kids while I was battling cancer – anyone who has been through it knows those are two separate challenges.” 

Ryan has resumed his job at the City of Kettering’s parks and recreation department. 

As tribute to all who helped him – relatives, friends, neighbors, coworkers, employers -- Ryan is helping other young parents who have brain cancer by founding the Gratitude and Grace Foundation. “For other people who are going through what we did, I want to help connect them with resources they need,” he says. “I am passionate about spreading the possibility of hope in people’s lives and will take any opportunity to share what I have learned -- from this journey I never expected.”

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