He never gave up his faith
Cody Baldree was a man full of life that had everything going his way. During baseball season, he pretty much lived at the ballpark. He was either on the field coaching or in the stands cheering one of his three kids....his wife Shannon, always at his side. At age 36, his life was full and rich-- he never dreamed things would take such a drastic turn.
It started with a nagging pain in his side. Like most of us do, he ignored it for a while, but the pain became severe enough that he thought he should see a doctor. A few tests were run--no definitive problems were apparent. That was in August, 2008. By October, he was experiencing shortness of breath, and his energy level was dropping. Dr. Wessman, local physician, sent him for an x-ray. It showed that his right lung was completely collapsed and full of fluid. He was told to go immediately to Shreveport. After many tests, it was determined he had APL - acute promyelocytic leukemia, a rare bone marrow cancer.
After being diagnosed, Cody made the decision to go to MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. The doctors said he would be there 4-6 weeks. Shannon had the daunting task of going home, packing for a month, and getting the kids situated. She said, "We've been so blessed because our family is here, and we were able to leave the kids at home with them. Cody's mother and my parents have been there to help us every step of the way. Because of them, our kids were able to sleep in their own beds at night--we tried to make things as normal as possible for them. "
Many people were calling, offering prayers and help in any way possible. One such person was Tammy Alexander. Her daughter, Staci, had also been diagnosed with leukemia. She knew what the Baldrees were going through. Shannon said, "I met Tammy through school, but I didn't really know her. She had gotten my number from somebody and had called while we were in Shreveport. She told me that when we got our call from MD Anderson, to let her know, because she was packed and ready to go with us. Of course, I told her that was such a sweet offer, but she didn't really need to do that. She insisted. She met me on the loop in Carthage, and I have to say, she was a Godsend. I followed her taillights all the way to Houston. "
MD Anderson is like a city in itself...larger than downtown Dallas. People from all over the world are there, and it can be a very intimidating place. "Tammy was literally my Saving Grace. She was an Angel. She showed me how to get around...she knew all the tricks. That night I hadn't eaten anything, and she brought me food. She knew what I was experiencing probably better than me. She stayed three nights helping me learn the 'ropes'--making sure I was ready to do this on my own. She was somebody that could detach herself from Cody...she was there for me. Throughout our stay in Houston she kept in contact with us. It's one of those things, that hopefully, someday I'll be able to pay it forward. "
One of the tests discovered that his platelet count was 9--a person's normal count should be a minimum of 150,000. He was put in isolation because his immune system was totally wiped out, and treatment began. After a week, Cody and Shannon were able to move to an apartment and take the treatments as an outpatient. They were able to return home by Thanksgiving.
Cody spent the next few months driving to Shreveport for chemo treatments. Both he and Shannon were able to go back to work, and things started looking normal again. Baseball season started, and the Baldrees were in full swing. In July, (2009) the boys were playing ball in Longview. Cody noticed a headache developing that wouldn't go away. "I was sitting on the ball bucket, and I couldn't get up. They had to carry me to the car to get to the ER." Tests were run--the lining of Cody's brain was completely saturated with leukemia.
Back to square one... Houston...more chemo treatments--this time in his spine, plus radiation treatments because of a lesion that appeared. There was a risk of paralysis. By the time the treatments were finished, and Cody had returned to Carthage, he was fully paralyzed from the waist down. Cody said, "It was kind of a catch-22. I was in full remission from the cancer, but I couldn't walk. The chemo had fried my nerves."
After six months of rehab, Cody was able to take his first steps with a walker. He gives all the glory to God and his physical therapist, Clayton Brakeville, at Carthage Physical Therapy. "I want people to know that without the good Lord, none of this would be possible. The community has been good to us--their prayers, the cards, just everybody helping out. We have said it over and over again that this is the best place in the world to live. It just makes you so grateful to live in a place like Carthage."
Shannon added, "I think we got a card from every church in town--churches we've never been in. That's amazing! It says a lot about our community--pulling together to help those in need. First United Methodist Church gave us a prayer blanket (and we're not even Methodists!). The blanket was laid in the foyer, and everybody that said a prayer for Cody tied a knot in it--there are hundreds of knots along the edge. Just things like that...we'll never forget that kind of stuff."
"We've always had a good marriage, but I think it's even better now. We appreciate each day we have together. Sometimes I just want to shake some people when I see them getting upset over petty things. Our kids have grown up a lot during all this, but I think they're better for it. They've seen that prayer works. It brings a whole new outlook on everything. When you hear people say they're praying for you, it's an awesome, wonderful feeling. "