June’s Luckiest Hoosier Alive: Dave Hawkins
“It was dark, but the roads were dry,” Hawkins says. “I remember looking up and seeing this car going off the road.”
Before he had time to process what was happening, Hawkins’ vehicle collided, head-on, with the other. Though he was fortunate to not sustain internal bleeding or severe injuries, he suffered six broken ribs — a pain so searing that Hawkins likens it to a root canal.
At the emergency room, Hawkins had a CT scan. Then he sat and waited for what seemed like an eternity before the doctor returned with unsettling news.
“You’re pretty busted up with those broken ribs,” the doctor said. “But in addition to that,” the physician continued, “I see a tumor down by your abdomen, so I’ve paged a surgical oncologist to consult.”
Hawkins’ eyes widened. A bit later, when the surgical oncologist confirmed that Hawkins had lymphoma, he was rendered speechless.
Wincing in pain yet dazed and confused, Hawkins sat dumbfounded in the ER, absorbing the shocking diagnosis. None of it made sense as he had experienced no lower back pain or night sweats — typical symptoms of cancer.
Hawkins had six weeks to let reality sink in as he recovered from his broken ribs. Then he went in for a biopsy, at which time he learned he had testicular cancer. Not only is the cancer, itself, rather uncommon, with just 85 to 100 new cases identified nationwide each year, but given Hawkins’ age (60) at the time, it was especially surprising.
What wasn’t unusual, however, was the way in which Hawkins learned of his condition. Physicians told him that it’s not uncommon for work or athletic injuries to reveal the often-elusive form of cancer.
Ultimately, doctors confirmed that the tumor they saw on the CT scan was actually three lymph nodes that had expanded — one 4.5 centimeters and the other two just over three centimeters. Hawkins was given the option of either undergoing radiation or chemotherapy. He was told that the recurrence rate for chemo patients is five percent, whereas the recurrence rate for radiation is 50 percent.
“Those numbers helped me make up my mind real quick,” Hawkins says.
He had surgery on his ribs, then endured 15 rounds of chemotherapy treatments, which depleted his energy.
“Chemo is hard to explain,” Hawkins says. “There’s no pain associated with it, yet the nausea and fatigue is incredible. You sit in a chair, thinking about how you really ought to get up and do something, but you literally cannot move because your body is so fatigued.”
Though Hawkins initially tried to shield his diagnosis from his elderly mother because he didn’t want to worry her, he found himself in a tricky spot when his hair began falling out.
“One day she asked me why I was always wearing a hat,” Hawkins says. “I couldn’t keep it a secret any longer.”
After six months, Hawkins’ strength returned. He had to have routine blood tests and chest X-rays to ensure the cancer had not spread to his lungs or brain. Thankfully, all tests have come back clear.
Eight months after the accident, Hawkins knocked on the front door of the man who smashed into him that fateful December night.
“I explained to him how grateful I was that the accident happened because it actually saved my life,” says Hawkins, a resident of Noblesville.
Hawkins and his wife are eager to go to Hoosier Park Casino so he can play blackjack and she can play the slots. The awesome prize package is partly why he entered the Luckiest Hoosier Alive Contest.