Positive attitude fights disease
Jody Guy has a bicycle. He likes to ride it around town. He likes to peddle fast down the sidewalks, like most eight-year-olds. Jody knows the Baldwin City police by name, and they know him. He likes to stop by the station and say hello. Jody Guy goes to school, some days more reluctantly than others, just like most 8-year-olds.
But when Jody introduces himself, he's quick to establish what sets him apart from his classmates. "I'm Jody, I have leukemia."
On Oct. 27, Jody didn't even know what leukemia was. He knew Halloween was coming up, and he knew he had a stuffy nose that wouldn't go away. His mother, Rita Guy, took him to see a pediatrician.
"She thought it was a sinus infection and they put him on Augmentin," Jody's mother said.
Ten days later Jody's nose hadn't improved and he was having trouble breathing at night. The pediatrician ordered lab work and on Nov. 10, Jody Guy was admitted to the KU Medical Center. After a bone marrow biopsy, Hematologist Debra Smith relayed the diagnosis: T-Cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia.
"I really lost it when they told me his hair would fall out," Rita Guy remembered. "His pretty brown hair."
On Nov. 15, Jody started chemotherapy. "We're glad we got started so fast," his mom said.
Normally, this type of leukemia is first caught when the patient suffers from a bloody nose. The nose bleeds on and on and is not able to clot easily, due to the lack of platelets in the patient's blood. Jody was in the hospital before his bloody nose began. The 8-year-old spent the remainder of that day with icepacks covering his face, to encourage clotting.
Because Jody was diagnosed so early, the doctors are optimistic about his chances of surviving this form of leukemia. The survival rate after five years is 78 percent, but because of Jody's size, he's a healthy 100-pound boy, his body may react better to the weight loss associated with chemotherapy.
In the meantime, he'll need all 100 pounds of strength to get him through his treatments. Jody endures four-day rounds of chemotherapy, which cause nausea and fatigue. Jody has a permanent IV line running up his inner arm and into his heart. The line allows nurses to administer medicine intravenously without a traditional IV. The "picc line" as it's called, saves Jody's veins from the trauma of constant poking.
Jody underwent three spinal taps for both bone marrow samples and injection of chemotherapy directly into the spine. After all of that, even school looks pretty good to Jody.
Since diagnosed, Jody returned to his classroom at Baldwin Elementary School only once. He went back to share his experiences with his class, and to explain his illness to them.
"The kids were happy to see Jody again," said Shirley Wright, Jody's teacher. And Jody was happy to see his friends.
"When he got out, he had me take him to Mrs. Wright's classroom," Guy said.
Jody showed his classmates his thinning hair and even joked about the common reaction to radiation treatments.
"He showed them how he could reach up and pull it out," she said.
Jody's mother is proud of how well her son is coping with his illness. "He's accepting it better than a lot of adults are dealing with it." Guy views this challenge as a learning opportunity for both Jody and herself.
And what a challenge it has been.
During the already trying times away from home, Guy's car was stolen from the KU Medical Center parking garage.
"They charged us eighty dollars to get the car out of impound," she said. When police found the car, which was loaned to Guy because her own car couldn't make the drive to Kansas City each day, it was unable to be driven.
"We paid $100 to put a new steering column in so that I could drive Jody back (to Baldwin). If it wasn't for bad luck, I wouldn't have any luck at all," Guy said.
Jody and his mother decided early on that luck would not pull them through this.
"At first I sat around and cried a lot," said Guy. Now they use humor and honesty instead. "We've already picked out temporary tattoos to wear when his hair falls completely out," Guy laughed. They've also picked out a Santa Claus stocking cap, for Christmas. "Jody's going to pass out the presents."
Guy has made sure that her son understands what is going on inside his body, and the importance of doing what the doctors order. "I'm not candy coating this for him." In response, Guy said that her son is amazingly cool about his illness. He deals with his oral doses of chemotherapy and the uncomfortable side affects of his treatment in a mature way. When one of his many bedside machines beeps, he mutes the cartoons a mainstay on his television and nonchalantly calls his nurse.
Because of his stockiness and calm demeanor, Jody is easily mistaken for someone much older. When the nurse comes in, if she has yet to meet Jody, he'll be sure to introduce himself.
"Hi, I'm Jody," he says and turns to his mother and reverts back to an 8-year-old, "what is the name of what I've got?" He regains his cool composure, "I'm Jody, I have leukemia."
Baldwin City residents have reached out a helping hand in response to Jody Guy's diagnosis. The 8-year-old Baldwin City boy was diagnosed with Acute T-Cell Lymphoblastic Leukemia. He undergoes four-day chemotherapy treatments at the KU Medical Center.
Susan Baker opened an account to help Jody's mother, Rita Guy, with the medical and daily living expenses. Interested persons may deposit donations into the account at the Baldwin State Bank. The Kwik Shop has also added its support to Jody's cause. There is a donation jar next to the convenience store's register.
Guy said that she and her son were amazed but not entirely surprised to hear of the hometown support.
"To the people of Baldwin thanks," said Guy. "The people of Baldwin are willing to bend over backwards for a kid they might never have met."
Guy said that Jody has been encouraged by the reaction to his illness.
"I told Jody that he's got friends he doesn't even know yet," she said.
Baker said that a chili feed is also planned to help raise money for the Guys.