For many, receiving a cancer diagnosis can seem like the end of the world. But not for Justin Kinard who found out he had stage three colon cancer and received treatment at MercyOne Des Moines Cancer Center.

Justin’s first symptoms included feeling very sick. He didn’t want to add on any unnecessary stress with something he hoped would go away on its own.  However, his sickness got worse. It was not until he was having trouble picking up his son, that he finally visited MercyOne Des Moines Family Practice Physician, Robert J. Callahan, M.D.

“Everything kind of happened all at the same time: having a baby, buying a house, starting new jobs, and everything else,” said Justin. “I visited with Dr. Callahan who sent me through many tests when I finally came in. The last test was a colonoscopy and the rest is history.”

Justin didn’t let the fact that he had cancer slow him down. He was ready to face this head on and was determined to stay positive and have fun. After a few more tests and scans, he was introduced to Tara Graff, D.O., MercyOne Newton Medical Center oncologist and Shankar Raman, M.D., MercyOne Des Moines Medical Center colo-rectal surgeon.

“I ended up with the perfect doctors for me,” said Justin. “My treatment plan was tailored to me, beyond that, even.”

Justin explained the normal course of treatment for someone with stage three colon cancer: three rounds of chemotherapy, surgery, then another three rounds of chemotherapy. Dr. Graff saw that Justin didn’t follow this typical protocol and changed his course of treatment to fit what he could handle and what would be the best for him.

“Dr. Graff would add more chemotherapy treatments before my surgery because my body actually handled it very well,” said Justin. “I didn’t mind because I was also having as much fun as I could with it.”

Though Justin did experience the typical side effects of chemotherapy, staying positive and making cancer into an adventure helped him get through this time. He expressed that throughout his whole treatment plan, the main objective was to enjoy the journey.

When it came time for surgery, Justin discovered it was going to be done with the da Vinci Surgical System. This system provides surgeons with state-of-the-art-robotic technology that helps handle the most delicate tissue. Justin recounts being in the operating room before starting surgery and seeing the da Vinci robot. He expressed it was the coolest thing he has ever seen.

MercyOne Des Moines performs the most robotic surgical procedures in central Iowa. Patients undergoing gynecology, urology, hernia, colo-rectal or thoracic surgery have a minimally-invasive option utilizing robotic-assisted surgery with da Vinci. Compared to traditional open procedures that require large incisions, robotic surgery uses a few small incisions and patients experience less pain and a faster recovery.

Justin is now a little over a year in remission. His journey with cancer had its ups and downs but staying positive, having fun and taking on the motto “Rise Up,” left him with a great story to tell. You can learn more about Justin’s journey by reading his blog “Cute Puppy Kill Kill” on Facebook.

Justin expressed how grateful he is to have MercyOne Des Moines Cancer Center and the MercyOne Des Moines health system. Through every step of diagnosis and treatment, Justin felt that everyone truly cared about him and he wouldn’t have wanted to be anywhere else.

“I’m alive today because of MercyOne Des Moines Cancer Center,” said Justin. “They thought outside of the box and didn’t just give me the cookie cutter treatment plan but pushed me to see what I could do. They took a 40-year-old dude with stage three colon cancer who walked out cancer free, no colostomy bag and a smile on his face.”

Cancer is something that affects everyone but having a reliable and strong team in place provides comfort in an uncertain time.

“To anyone currently going through treatment at MercyOne Des Moines Cancer Center, find a way to have fun and make this an adventure,” said Justin. “You are in trustworthy hands.”

You can help support patients like Justin being treated at MercyOne Des Moines Cancer Center. Please contact MercyOne Des Moines Foundation Senior Director of Development, Joan Bindel at or 515-643-8020.


  1. Barb Ley - a friend of your mom on August 19, 2019 at 9:57 pm

    Very cool. a positive attitude and God watching over you does make all the difference! Here’s to having more fun and on to another different adventure!

    • Mike Whittie on August 26, 2019 at 11:24 am

      It does not surprise me that you kicked cancer’s butt. Congratulations!!!! And good luck in the future!

  2. Toni pieper on August 20, 2019 at 8:28 pm

    Way to go Justin!! Onward and upward!!!

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