True Grit: Throughout Cancer Fight, North Carolina Cadet 'Keeps Putting Others Ahead of Myself'
“Courage” is an overworked noun that lazy sportscasters and “happy talk” TV morning news anchors have beaten into submission to the point that it doesn’t effectively conjure the fortitude that wells inside some people — people like Cadet 1st Lt. Ally Davis of the North Carolina Wing's Union County Composite Squadron .
Still just holding on to her teen years, “grit” is a better word to describe Davis’ no-holds-barred bout with adversity that drives her to not only overcome obstacles but also achieve amazing things in the process — things most of us would think too daunting to try. even without a life-threatening battle at the door.
- At 18, she’s in remission — for the second time — in her battle against lymphoma, a life-and- death struggle she’s waged since age 11. That journey also included a successful stem cell transplant.
- While battling cancer full-time, she created the Team Ally Foundation, raising money for childhood cancer research, earning her recognition from regional and state chapters of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.
- Concurrently, Davis graduated from high school, completed her associate degree, and entered nursing school at Wingate University.
- And after only two years of service, she’s already a cadet first lieutenant in the Union County Composite Squadron in Waxhaw, North Carolina, having achieved the rank in early September.
Exactly how Davis does it all elicits different answers from the cadet and her mom, Suzanne Davis, also a member of the Union County squadron.
“A lot of time management, I guess,” Ally Davis said.
But fittingly for a CAP cadet’s parent, Suzanne Davis looks skyward. “God’s strength,” she said.
Cadet Davis is quick to point out that she works in ground support for the squadron in emergency services add quips, “I like to keep my feet on the ground.”
She was drawn to CAP, she said, out of a desire to be active and serve her community.
“Before I wanted to become a nurse, I wanted to go into the service as a combat medic. But I looked up their medical requirements … and I wouldn’t be able to pass the medical requirements because I had a stem cell transplant,” Ally Davis said. “[CAP] is my way to give back to my community.”
When diagnosed with cancer, she was a typical active kid. Softball. Taekwondo.
But eventually her energy level tanked.
At first doctors thought the skinny whirling dervish wasn’t eating enough, especially carbs and protein. But a change in diet didn’t help.
At an annual checkup, bloodwork revealed severely low hemoglobin levels. A subsequent chest X-ray revealed a tumor the size of a newborn baby’s head. The tumor was so large it pushed her heart from the left to the right side of her chest and compromised her left lung.
After successful treatment, she went into remission in 2016, created her foundation, and got involved with other foundations raising money, advocacy, and awareness in a push to find a cure for pediatric cancers.
Her foundation used everything from chili cookoffs to poker tournaments to raise money. In 2017 she was honored as the Young Woman of the Year for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. For 10 weeks, she traveled with 16 other cancer fighters around the Charlotte, North Carolina, region telling their stories and raising more than $1.4 million for cancer research.
Ally Davis’ first cancer diagnosis came a year and two days after her dad was diagnosed with the same disease. Despite the heaviness they felt with two cancer patients in the house, this close-knit family rallied.
“Ally went through anger issues and depression,” Suzanne Davis recalled. “We sat down and decided we have to look at some bright stuff, or cancer’s going to eat us up.”
The Davises didn’t have to look far to find the bright spots. Friends, neighbors, family, and even strangers prayed for the youth. Others made donations and helped out however they could.
And at one point, this diminutive teen, sitting in her hospital bed, looked at her parents and said something unusual — almost otherworldly.
“She says, ‘I appreciate this. But what am I going to do with all this?’” Suzanne Davis said. “So anything she could donate back to the hospital, she did. She says, ‘There are other kids here who don’t have as much, or who don’t have people praying for them. I want them to be special, too.’”
Her mother added, “She has a huge heart.” With a chuckle, she said, “I want to say she gets that from me.”
Shortly after she began her second campaign to be the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society Student of the Year, cancer returned. Her parents told her no one would fault her for walking away.
Her response was classic Ally Davis. “I started something. I’m going to finish it."
She finished fourth in the competition despite her illness and won the Mission Focus Award, raising $34,000. Fortunately, she went into remission again in June 2019.
Like her mom, the cadet believes faith is at the heart of her story.
“It was just the right time, the right place that God put me in. I had people all around me, praying for me,” she said. “[God] has allowed me to do all I’ve done over the last five years.”
Ally Davis is also driven. “When she got into Civil Air Patrol, she was like, ‘I want to promote. I want to promote.’ I couldn’t stop her,” Suzanne Davis said. “Her thing is to be a leader.”
That faith, that drive, that grit, propels Ally Davis. She says cancer made her a better person.
“It goes with the thing of putting others ahead of myself.”
And her enthusiasm is contagious. “It just rolls over to anyone who has known her, been touched by her, or has read her story,” her mother said.
That’s true grit.
This profile of Cadet 1st Lt. Ally Davis, originally featured in the Fall 2022 Civil Air Patrol Volunteer along with a photo gallery, is eighth in a regular series of articles showcasing how CAP and its members make an impact throughout the nation.