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IndyCar Safety Team leader undergoes surgery for cancer

David Malsher-Lopez
·2-min read

Billows was a firefighter and paramedic for 13 years in Fairborn, OH, before graduating from the University of Cincinnati School of Medicine, and working in the emergency department at IU Health Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis.

He joined the Safety Team in 1998 and has served as director of medical services for Indianapolis Motor Speedway since 2006.

As well as being known as a top-class first responder, Billows is also respected for his proactive role in improving safety measures in IndyCar, whether it’s updating equipment and technology on the Safety Team trucks or improving care procedures for drivers in the event of an accident.

Consequently, IndyCar president Jay Frye and Dallara consulted Billows and Baughman throughout the process of designing the aeroscreen to ensure it met with their requirements as an active and passive safety measure and how to make the necessarily revised driver extraction techniques as swift and slick as before.

However, last Thursday, Billows’ family revealed on the Caring Bridge website that Dr Billows had been “diagnosed with a rare and aggressive cancer, Salivary Ductal Carcinoma…

“The days following his diagnosis have proven to be some of the most challenging we have ever faced. We learned that the cancer has spread to at least 2 lymph nodes. We learned that he would need Radical Neck Surgery followed by radiation, and maybe chemo.”

On Friday, following his third and final meeting with the surgeons, the family revealed that he would undergo a 10-12 hour procedure today involving 3 surgeons. “An ENT specialist will first resect the tumor, followed by a neuro specialist who will drill a hole in the base of his skull to remove the cranial nerve, and finally a plastic surgeon to ‘try to do something with the mess the first two make!’ (Geoff's words).

“Jokes aside, we are so thankful to the 3 surgeons who have taken on his case and coordinated this surgery so quickly. We expect Geoff to spend at least one night in the ICU following the surgery and 5-7 days total in the hospital.”

Those who wish to send a message to one of IndyCar’s unsung heroes and donate to CaringBridge.org in his honor, can do so here.