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Davis Shares Cancer Journey, Reveals Donation At City Of Hope Event

City of Hope, Kevin Davis
Kevin Davis

The Southern California Food Industries Circle (SCFIC) Harvest Ball and Auction was held Saturday, Nov. 16, at Hyatt Regency Resort and Spa in Huntington Beach, California. SCFIC helps raise funds for City of Hope, which focuses on cancer treatment, education and research. Kevin Davis, former chairman and CEO of Carson, California-based Bristol Farms, and now special advisor to the board of directors of Good Food Holdings, shared his cancer journey with the crowd. At the end, he revealed what Bristol Farms has committed to help fight a certain group of cancers.

Excerpts from Davis’ speech:

Whoever named me the “patient speaker” has obviously never heard me speak…When I received a call from my doctor and he told me I had cancer, I felt like this: completely isolated, in the dark and completely alone.

I felt like the whole world was gone and I was the only one there, inside my head, running through all the scenarios and options and feeling like it was just “me and cancer.”

I had gone through this before back in 2005 when I was diagnosed with second stage neck cancer and I had surgery then to remove a lymph gland in my neck but otherwise I was fine, with no recurrence until last year when I noticed a lump on the side of my neck and a sore throat that didn’t go away after I had a cold. But this time it was different.

I was in Washington, D.C., at an FMI meeting when the doctor called with my biopsy results. The doctor on the call said because I had this before, and because of the location in my neck, I needed to go to a research hospital or hospital that specializes in advanced cancer cases, like City of Hope. He said they’d try and help me with a referral, but there was nothing else they could do for me, it was more than they could handle.

I told him thanks and hung up, and I immediately called my wife, Cindy.

After sharing the news with Cindy, I didn’t feel quite as alone anymore. She has been there to support me through everything in my life for over 40 years; our 38th wedding anniversary was Thursday this week. Thank you, Cindy.

We discussed the situation and I told her after all these years of supporting City of Hope and more than 30 years of Harvest Ball Dinners like this one; and all the phone calls I have made to Cheryl Kennick over the years for other people, I never once thought I would be calling Cheryl about myself, to see if she could help me set up an appointment.

But that’s what I did. 

I spoke to Cheryl on her cell phone and told her what was going on; she said, “when are you coming back into town?” and I said tomorrow, and she said, “Come straight to the hospital, we’ll be waiting for you.”

I hung up and took a deep breath and I didn’t feel alone anymore; the lights came back on. I felt that I was going to go to the single best place I could go, with the best people, the best doctors and the most advanced research for cancer anywhere. And they would be waiting for me when I got there. I know I didn’t have the answers on what to do, but I felt confident that the doctors at City of Hope did.

I had my wife Cindy, my family, I had Cheryl and the City of Hope, I had my Bristol Farms family who I know would support me in any way possible. 

The more I thought about it, I realized I wasn’t alone AT ALL.

With Cindy’s help, my kids’ help, Cheryl’s help and all of your help, but most of all with the great doctors at City of Hope and several months of treatments, some five days a week for months, they helped me beat my cancer; and walked me out of that darkness I felt and brought me back.

Dr. Gernon was my lead doctor but he recommended against surgery so he didn’t get to stick a knife in me but managed my treatment and results, and his wife; and Dr. Amini my radiation oncologist and his guest. And not here this evening is Dr. Morganna Freeman; she was my medical oncologist who handled all the chemotherapy and clinical trial treatments.

When I asked the doctors what we can do to help them help patients like me with head or neck cancers, they said, “research.”  They have the latest equipment and tools; they have great facilities which are expanding all the time, but they need money specifically to spend on research to find new treatments and more ways to fight cancer like mine.

  • In 2019, about 65,000 people were projected to develop a head and neck cancer in the United States (48,000 men and 17,000 women).
  • Head and neck cancers can affect anyone at any age and are some of the toughest cancers to treat.
  • Basic functions that we rely on such as speech and swallowing can be jeopardized by these tumors or by treatment which is why it is imperative that we continue to invest in research to create innovative approaches to caring for head and neck cancer patients.
  • City of Hope treats more than 200 new head and neck cancer patients each year in addition to maintaining ongoing care for past patients like me.
  • City of Hope has a multidisciplinary head and neck disease team who provides diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation of head and neck cancers.
  • City of Hope’s head and neck team specializes in complex procedures often necessary to eradicate these tumors while preserving vital structures and function.
  • The team is deepening its understanding of the underlying causes of head and neck cancers and developing leading-edge interventions that improve results for patients.
  • Multiple studies are underway and require additional funding that focus on using immunotherapy to boost effectiveness of chemoradiation, developing personalized post-surgery treatment plans based on genetics and risk factors, examining radiation’s impact on the immune system to improve immunotherapy, and utilizing novel biomarkers and molecular targeting to increase efficiency of treatment.

Tonight, we’d like to try and raise an additional $100,000 specifically for head and neck cancer research, and to help us on our way tonight, Adam Caldecott, the CEO of Bristol Farms, has agreed that Bristol Farms will match the first $50,000 raised with a donation earmarked for head and neck cancer research.

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