Advance with MUSC Health

Glioblastoma Awareness Day: 2 Years After a Deadly Brain Tumor Diagnosis, Patient is Ready to Return a Big Favor

Advance With MUSC Health
July 10, 2023
Jon and Lynette Davis
Jon and Lynette Davis

The words from the neurologist still ring in Jon Davis’ ears: "You’ve got either stage 3 or stage 4 brain cancer. Call in every favor that you can — whatever you need to do.”

The news sent Davis and his wife, Lynette, reeling. Just 36 hours before, on June 29, 2021, the Charleston Southern University administrator was doing what he does best: recruiting and building connections between Charleston Southern University and high school students at a Student Leadership University conference in Orlando, Fla.

As the meeting was wrapping up for the day, he developed a searing headache above his eyebrows.

“I went into another room, and two students went with me,” Davis says. “They asked me if I was OK and began asking me other questions. I wasn’t responding well, so they got hold of my wife, Lynette, who was at home in Goose Creek. Then they took me to a doctor’s office around 7 pm. By then, I was vomiting in the car; later, at the doctor’s office, I had two seizures, which resulted in the doctor intubating me.”

Those two students changed Davis’ life, he says. A short time later, he was sent to the ER at Celebration Hospital and admitted to the ICU, where a neurologist examined him from the ankles up and ran a battery of tests before delivering the grim news about his diagnosis.

By then, Lynette was at his side. “The doctor strongly suggested that we go back home for Jon’s treatment,” she says.

After a Glioblastoma Diagnosis: Calling in a Favor

That’s when they called in their first favor. “We reached out to a friend who had done his residency training at MUSC Health, and within two hours, we had an appointment with Nathan Rowland, M.D., a neurosurgeon at MUSC Health.”

Three days later, once Davis was released from the hospital, the couple left Orlando at dawn for the 6.5-hour drive to Charleston, arriving with less than two hours to spare before their appointment with Dr. Rowland.

After reviewing the notes from the Florida doctors, Dr. Rowland said the next step was to have a brain biopsy to determine the stage of the tumor, Davis says.

The results confirmed the diagnosis: Davis had stage 4, multiform glioblastoma – the worse kind that someone can have – on his left temporal lobe, which controls speech, language, and memory.

A Miraculous Brain Tumor Surgery

A former offensive coordinator for CSU’s football team and a former graduate assistant coach at Temple University, Davis was accustomed to facing adversaries. This time, he knew he had to muster all his physical and emotional strength to eliminate the tumor.

He was scheduled for an awake craniotomy on Aug. 17 at MUSC Health Medical Center.

Lynette recalls the day in vivid detail. “Jon’s twin sister, Jennifer Hammond, waited with me. Nearly five-and-a-half hours after the surgery began, Dr. Rowland ran out of the surgery suite and told us the best-case scenario: He said, ‘I got it all and then some. He’s in recovery, and at this point, as far as language and speech, those functions are intact.’”

Davis describes the outcome as a “miracle.” Even more of a miracle, he says, is that because all his emotions, language, and speech are controlled by the left temporal lobe, he did not lose any brain function.

“I am in a small percentage of the population who uses a greater percentage of the left side of their brain completely,” he says.

Treating Glioblastoma: Chemotherapy and Radiation

By October, Davis was sufficiently recovered to begin six weeks of post-op treatment at the NCI-designated MUSC Hollings Cancer Center under the direction of neurooncologist Scott Lindhorst, M.D., and radiation oncologist Charlotte Rivers, M.D.

Five days a week, he underwent radiation at the Hollings Center’s satellite location in Mount Pleasant, followed by a nightly dose of oral chemotherapy.

He continued to work full-time in his role as associate vice president for spiritual life, an accomplishment he attributes to the support of his medical team at Hollings.

“Scott Lindhorst steered the ship and oversaw my treatment, including my chemotherapy and blood work,” Davis says. “I cannot say enough about the team. Dr. Lindhorst has been a blessing and encourager, and he is brilliant. He walked us through every step of the way.”

His accolades for Dr. Rivers are equally as effusive. “Dr. Rivers was a miracle,” he says. “She encouraged me, and she inspired me. Everyone at the center cheered for me, and no one ever said a word that made me feel down. I cannot rate them highly enough, and I will always recommend everybody there.”

After a chemo “holiday” in late fall, he resumed his intensive chemo regimen in January 2022, taking one pill nightly, five days a week for the entire year.

In Cancer Remission and Healthy Enough to Return a Favor

In December 2022, he celebrated his gift of cancer remission, more than 40 pounds lighter than when he was diagnosed, but grateful that he had beaten the odds. He’s back to lifting weights and living a healthy lifestyle.

Smiling people gathered togehter for a family photo.

He still returns to MUSC Health regularly for bloodwork and MRIs to monitor his progress. He’s even returning to Orlando this summer for the SLU conference, where his journey began. Call it a victory lap of sorts, but Davis remains humble about surviving his ordeal and attributes his survival to his faith and to the doctors at MUSC Health.

Then he admits he consulted other medical centers just to be sure he was making the right decision to be at MUSC Health.

“We trusted MUSC from the beginning, but we were taken aback by the diagnosis. I talked to Duke, and the doctor told me, ‘You won’t live six months.’ I met with the No. 2 neurosurgeon at M.D. Anderson. He spoke powerful words about MUSC and said MUSC will do the exact same thing we would do. That is where you need to be, and you will be in good hands there.’”

Davis says God put him in the right place at the right time. “He and the rest of my doctors took me in at my darkest hours and gave me extended life and hope. Dr. Rowland and everyone at MUSC are five-star. I would recommend them to anyone.”

Then he reserves one last bit of gratitude for the students who recognized he was experiencing a health crisis.

“They helped save my life by getting me to a doctor immediately,” he says. “I owe them so much.”

This fall, Davis will return the favor instead of calling in one. He’ll be the co-officiant at their wedding.

MUSC Hollings Cancer Center is South Carolina’s only National Cancer Institute-designated cancer center. Learn how Hollings is Changing What’s Possible in the state and beyond.

Dr. Nathan Rowland sees patients at MUSC Health North Area Medical Pavilion, 8992 University Boulevard. To schedule an appointment, call 843-792-7700.

Dr. Scott Lindhorst sees patients at MUSC Health Hollings Cancer Center, 86 Jonathan Lucas St. To make an appointment, call 843-792-9300.

Dr. Charlotte Rivers sees patients at MUSC Health Radiation Oncology at 1180 Hospital Drive in Mount Pleasant. Call 843-792-9300 to schedule an appointment.