‘Singing Cop’ Hopes to Subdue Cancer

His dad likes to tell the story about how young Dillen Sexton dressed up one Halloween as a police officer. And when he watched cartoons he’d cry until his parents turned on the news.

He always knew he wanted to make a difference – to help others.

Growing up he raced stock cars and at one point thought he might be a NASCAR driver but realized law enforcement was his calling. A resident of Greenfield, Ind., Sexton graduated from Eastern Hancock High School in 2012 and received an associate degree in criminal justice from Ivy Tech. After working as a prison guard for three years he was hired as a correction officer for the Hancock County jail and then as a police officer.

“We call him the singing cop because he’d spend hours in his room playing guitar and playing country tunes for friends around a campfire,” said his dad, Jim Sexton. Dillen is the middle of three boys born to Jim and Zora Sexton.

“As a police officer on the road there’s something new every day,” said Dillen Sexton, 25. “I’m on the night shift and get a lot of calls about robberies. You go in with the door busted and don’t know what you’re walking into. There could be people hyped up on drugs, something domestic – you just never know,” said Sexton. “We are proactive with drug control and I think there’s a lot to be said about asking questions. You find out a lot. I like serving the community. You train as if your life or someone else’s life depends on it.”

It was February when Sexton was watching TV and felt pain in his groin. The next day he was driving on a bumpy road and the pain was even more noticeable. He went to his family doctor and an ultrasound revealed a two-centimeter mass on his left testicle. He was scheduled for an orchiectomy soon after and was referred to IU Health oncologist Dr. Lawrence Einhorn, known for his successful treatment of testicular cancer – germ cell tumors – using a mix of high dose chemotherapies and peripheral stem cell transplant.

“The options outlined for me were surveillance – to keep an eye on the cancer and make sure it doesn’t spread, or have lymph nodes removed. I opted for surveillance,” said Sexton. Then in June tests showed an enlarged lymph node in his abdomen and a small tumor in his right lung. He started chemotherapy on July 1.

“I had hoped it was just a cyst but I knew a little bit about testicular cancer. I had written a paper on Lance Armstrong in middle school,” said Sexton. Armstrong, a professional road-racing cyclist, was also treated by Dr. Einhorn at IU Health.

As he recently completed the end of his first round of chemo, Sexton said, “I feel pretty good. I am still going to the gym and haven’t had too many side effects.” Coworkers with the Hancock County Sherriff’s Department have shown their support by selling “Sexton Strong” bracelets.

“I feel blessed. It could be 100 times worse. My dad has gone through cancer treatment for leukemia for the past two years and my uncle and great uncle have both been diagnosed with cancer,” said Sexton. “In my line of work I’ve learned a lot about empathy. It’s one of the most important tools you can have to show people that you just want to make things better.”

–By T.J. Banes, Journalist, IU Health. Reach Banes via email tfender1@iuhealth.org.