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Honoring a Veteran and a Brother

Ben Graham and his sister Becky Davis
Ben Graham and his sister Becky Davis

Ben Graham served his country for six years as an Army National Guardsman, but for almost 70 years, he had another role—big brother to his sister, Becky.

"He was the oldest of my four brothers and my best friend," says Becky Davis. "He never went to the doctor because he was the picture of health, so we were very surprised when he was diagnosed. He had a great attitude about it, though. I remember him saying, ‘Well, I was getting bored, so this will be something new for me.’"

From the beginning, Ben’s prognosis of stage IV metastatic melanoma wasn’t good. One day, Becky received a frightening call.

"He said he didn’t think he was going to make it. He was gurgling because there was blood in his stomach and then he started throwing up. When I got him to the doctor, he said Ben was lucky to be alive."

As one final resort, Ben was sent to Huntsman Cancer Institute (HCI) for a new clinical trial.

"It was a miracle. He started doing great and became the poster child for this treatment. I never would have thought he would live another 10 years."

Ben had more time to live life to its fullest. More time with his brothers. More time at Clearfield Nursery and Power Equipment, which has been in his family more than 50 years. More time at the model train shop, Almosta Junction, which he owned for almost 30 years. More time with Best Friends Animal Society and his many cats. More time to drive his Miata. More time with Becky.

Ben with Becky's grandsons

"He was my biggest supporter. Ben would always check in, bring dinner over, be with us. On holidays, he was always with me and our parents. My two grandsons, Caleb and Cameron, loved Uncle Ben. He was like a father to my kids and grandkids. His death left a huge hole in my life."

Through her sadness, Becky is thankful for the support Ben received at HCI.

"From the very first appointment with Dr. Ken Grossmann, Ben had a team of people working with him. It’s obvious that everyone at HCI is doing their best to heal people and provide them with peace of mind. We thought it was just the first visit, but every time, everyone was involved. It was like having another family."

After collapsing in his home in early 2021, Ben was admitted to a local hospital. After a few days, he was able to get back to HCI and his spirits lifted.

Ben in infusion at Huntsman Cancer Institute

"HCI was his second home. Ben would always say ‘I don’t want to leave. I wonder if I can just get a room.’ He thought it was some type of resort," Becky chuckles.

When Ben passed away in April 2021, Becky was told there would be a small ceremony to recognize his service in the National Guard.

"Everyone had lined the halls. I was so impressed that these people that are constantly in motion, stopped to observe Ben. The flag was draped over him and they had a bugler playing ‘TAPS’. Their hands were on their hearts. There aren’t words to do it justice."

U.S. flag draped over hospital gurney

"Supporting cancer patients and their families through end of life is one of the most sacred responsibilities we have as cancer care professionals," Lawrence Marsco, HCI Senior Director of Nursing says. "Our ceremony to honor veterans who pass at HCI is a deeply meaningful tradition to our inpatient staff as one small way we can express our gratitude to those who have served our country."

After Ben’s passing, Becky found a booklet of information given to patients when they enter HCI. She clings to it as a reminder of her beloved brother.

"The booklet tells you everything—what to expect, who to call, everything," Becky adds. "They knew what he would need and had every base covered. If you have to go on a difficult journey like Ben did, the best partner you can have at your destination are the people from HCI. We were fortunate, blessed, lucky, whatever you want to call it—to have people from HCI in our life. Looking at that booklet reminds me of Ben’s positivity and gives me strength."