By AMANDA KIMBLE
ERATH COUNTY (May 20, 2016) – Aggressive treatment. Side effects. Missed work. Mounting medical-related expenses. Battling cancer is not easy. And it certainly isn’t cheap. Add to the equation a family, home and other day-to-day expenses and recovery can become overwhelming – physically, financially and emotionally.
Another local family is faced with that reality, and the friends and family of Cody Keith are arming themselves to fight the battle with him. They are rallying to gather support in the form of financial donations, prayers and encouragement.
Cody, 33, is a sergeant with the Erath County Sheriff’s Department and graduate of Hico High School. Cody is a son, brother and father. His mother is Kim Pack. His father is Tommy Keith, who is regional president for Lone Star Ag Credit, a former Chamber president and has been a Stephenville Chamber Ambassador for years.
His grandparents are known to many in the local area – both his maternal grandparents, Blackie and Jane Pack, and his paternal grandparents, Ed and Shirley Keith. Blackie was carpenter. Ed was once an Erath County constable.
Cody is happily married. He and Belinda have two children, Kennady, 5, and Levi, 3. Whether he’s wearing his uniform or reeling in fish, playing a guitar or riding around the ranch, Cody’s children see him as a hero.
On Friday, the Keith children took the trip to Fort Worth to get a better understanding of recent changes.
“They don’t understand why he doesn’t feel like playing,” Belinda said, adding that Cody is a hands-on father who spends every possible moment with his children. “So we brought the kids along to help them understand what is going on, where mommy and daddy are going.”
Cody’s brother Blake sees his brother as role model.
“Cody is an incredible husband and father,” Blake said.”We are only a year and five months apart. We have spent almost every day together, and watching him go through life has inspired me to have a different outlook. His commitment to his wife and family groomed me to be a better person – a family man.”
After about a month of numbness in his neck and face, Cody sought medical treatment and was diagnosed with Nasopharyngeal Carcinoma. The news hit his family hard.
“When learning he had cancer, everyone’s heart dropped,” Blake said.”Fear and sadness, but not Cody. He grabbed Belinda’s hand, looked her straight in her eyes, and said ‘Don’t you worry about this baby, I am going to beat it and we are gonna grow old together.”
That attitude will carry Cody through the battle.
“He is naturally strong,” Blake said.”My brother has always been a strong, strong person.”
The rare disease occurs when malignant cancer cells form on the nasposharynx, which is located
at the base of the skull, above the roof of the mouth. What was initially a stage 3 diagnosis is now being treated as a stage 4 cancer.
Blake said it’s believed the cancer, which is eating away at Cody’s facial nerves, tissues and bones and eroding part of his skull, has been present for 9-10 months. The initial treatment plan included surgically removing the tumor, but doctors later discovered that wouldn’t be possible.
“The tumor is wrapped around a carotid artery,” Blake said.
But there is a silver lining of sorts.
“Cody has undergone several MRI’s and CT Scans and thankfully so far, there are no signs of further spreading,” Blake posted in a online update.
The new plan of attack includes radiation treatment for five days, every Monday-Friday, for seven to eight weeks, as well as weekly doses of chemotherapy. A ‘super dose’ of both treatments will be administered before doctors reevaluate Cody’s condition in late June.
“We are about a week and half in and he already has sore throat,” Belinda said, adding the side effects will continue to progress in the coming weeks.”The doctors said it will take a couple of months for him to feel better after the radiation treatments end.”
Belinda and Cody will commute to and from Fort Worth at least five days every week during the treatment process, which has already caused a financial strain. The couple has traded in their pickup truck for a more economical car to help ease the burden.
Like a true hero, Cody is not concerned with the fight, he will win. He isn’t questioning God for making him walk this road, there’s a reason for everything. But even the bravest of men have an Achilles heel. For Cody, that weak spot is his children.
“The only fear he has shown is in saying that he’s worried he will not have the chance to walk Kennady down the isle,” Blake said.
A Helping Hand
Family, friends and law enforcement officials are doing everything possible to show support to Cody and his family.
Cody has medical insurance, but it’s not enough to keep the family afloat while he undergoes treatment. As a part-time employee, Belinda, who plans to be at her husband side through treatment and recovery, doesn’t qualify for assistance under the Family Medical Leave Act.
To offer assistance, Blake has organized an effort, ‘Lock up Cancer.’ He sees its future as something similar the Susan G. Komen Foundation, but for the benefit of law enforcement officials battling cancer and their families. First, the effort it focused on Cody.
A website, codykeith.weebly.com, sharing news and updates about Cody has been established. It also provides a link for monetary donations through PayPal. Blue wrist support bands inscribed with ‘Back the Blue’ and ‘Lock Up Cancer’ are being sold at the Erath County Sheriff’s Office for $5 each and can also be ordered by emailing email@example.com .
Meanwhile, a benefit account has also been established at a local bank.
“Cody and Belinda will be faced with financial difficulties due to the nature of the treatments as neither one will be able to return to work for quite some time,” the Cody Keith website states.”If you would like to make a financial contribution, First Financial Bank has set up a checking account to help fund Cody and his family during this time of need. If you would like to donate money, you can swing by your local branch and tell the bank to deposit your contribution in his (Cody Keith) Cancer Account.”
In addition, friends have organized an auction, featuring a barbecue dinner and live music for 6-9 p.m. Saturday, June 4 at City Hall at City Limits. Individuals who would like to donate to the auction or others who need additional information are asked to call Shelley Gilliland at (254) 965-3612.
The Erath County Sheriff’s Office (ECSO) is also backing their brother in arms. Keith is one of two deputies who are currently on medical leave and the department is offering assistance with a fundraising event that will be held in early August.
“We are small enough agency that we are all family,” Chief Deputy Jason Upshaw said.”We spend more time with each other than we do with our own families, and when one of us is hurt or dealing with medical issues, we circle the wagons and do what we can to take care of them.”
ECSO is also selling t-shirts, that say “Standing Behind Those Who Stand Behind Us” and depict and American Flag with a blue line representing one of the stripes. The t-shirts can be purchased at the sheriff’s office, located at 1043 Glen Rose Road in Stephenville. Email orders can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. Individuals who order their shirts by email are asked to include their name, email address, size and quantity of shirts ordering and shipping address. There is an additional charge for shipping, and payments will be collected through PayPal.
Upshaw said the deputies have medical insurance through the county, but there are many expenses that are not covered and both of the officials face a long road to recovery.
“I can speak from personal experience,” Upshaw said.”I’m still paying for back surgery I had December 2014. We have insurance, and that is in many way invaluable, but there are still a lot of out-of-pocket expenses associated with recovery.”
Proceeds from the August fundraiser and t-shirt sales will benefit both both law enforcement officials.
The Flash will share more information on the event and Deputy Dustin Paulsen in subsequent articles.
Finally, fellow law enforcement official Chief Jason Jenkins with Frisco Police Department started a patch, challenge coin and pin Support board in Cody’s honor. Law enforcement officials, firefighters, EMTs, first responders, members of the military and others are sending emblems to the Erath County Sheriff’s Office. Blake said the board is on display at the Keith residence, reminding Cody that he has a band of brothers with him in the fight against cancer.
For more information on Cody Keith and his battle with Nasopharyngeal Carcinoma, visit http://codykeith.weebly.com/