Poteet, Texas—they don’t get too worked up in this town. There’s not much going on. It’s a place with almost three thousand folks. Lots of dust. Windmills. Rural highways. Rusty tractors.
The city’s water tower is painted like a strawberry since the town’s claim to fame is being the strawberry capital of Texas. That, and this is George Strait’s hometown.
This place is also home to Ike Coolidge.
You’d like Ike. Most people do. He’s got personality, charm, class. He enjoys cowboys, Buzz Lightyear, and using the potty. Ike is two years old.
Two weeks ago, he began having stomach pains. At first, his mother, Stephanie, didn’t think much about it. Tummy aches are as much a part of childhood as cowboys and Indians. Only, the pain didn’t go away.
A few days later, Ike was in a bed at Children’s Methodist in San Antonio. They found a tumor outside his bladder.
It was a shock.
His mother says, “Sunday, I was giving him ibuprofen. Monday, the hospital was giving him morphine…”
A community started praying.
What followed was Hell Week. Monday and Tuesday were nothing but meds and tests. Wednesday: a biopsy—which wasn’t exactly a Texas waltz. Thursday: an MRI, a CT scan. Specialists said the cancer had probably spread. They believed it to be an aggressive type. Twenty percent survival.
The word nightmare comes to mind. But, it’s not a strong enough word.
“He’s been so tough,” Stephanie says. “Nurses refer to him as ‘The Rockstar.’”
Which is an understatement. George Strait has nothing on this cowboy.
Ike’s mother made camp inside his hospital room. She fielded calls, texts, emails. She lived on coffee and trays of lukewarm food. People visited, some brought gifts. Everyone said a prayer.
Friday, she left the hospital for the first time in almost a week. After her eyes adjusted to the sunlight, she took time to do the things responsible mothers do. She ran errands, did busywork. Laundry.
“Our lives have changed,” she said. “Instead of being the helper, I’ve become the helpee, something I’m not used to…”
And thus, while the world carried on with things like reality-TV shows, Oscar Awards hype, and political arguments, Stephanie sat in a sterile room, giving tummy-rubs to her cowpoke.
“I’m so exhausted,” she said. “My poor guy is tired of playing hospital. I just have to believe something good will come out of all this.”
When the oncologist arrived, she brought two other doctors. Stephanie and her family braced for the biopsy results.
The physician didn’t quite understand how it happened. He said the cancer was a ‘good’ kind of cancer—meaning, it responds to treatment. And the better news: the cancer had not spread.
Stephanie says, “All three doctors said they were surprised. I guess when your doctors are surprised, that’s the power of praying friends.”
I guess it is.
And there’s a hell of a lot more where that came from, Stephanie.