Despair would have been easy to give into.
In a span of four days, the Davis family of Greenwood went from thinking that their 11-year-old son Cooper had injured his back to accepting that leukemia was attacking his body. Cooper would need 42 weeks of chemotherapy, with the potential for a bone marrow transplant depending on the effectiveness of his treatment.
Shock turned to fear and anger.
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But in the midst of tragedy, the family has seen divine intervention. They’ve seen God’s work in the doctors who have mapped Cooper’s path to wellness, in the friends and family who have lifted them up each day with support, and in strangers who have rallied around their cause.
With their faith intact, it has made the challenges they face much more manageable.
“For us, it’s all about the blessings. That blessing that it was finally discovered what was actually wrong with Cooper so he can be treated, and the blessings from God in the people that he’s put in our lives to walk alongside us on this journey,” Sandy Davis said. “We are so very grateful.”
Before his diagnosis, Cooper was a kid constantly overflowing with energy.
He played guitar for the past two years, taking lessons and learning everything from “Hungry Like the Wolf” to “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door.” He plays on the praise team at Greenwood Christian Church.
One thing you can always count on from him was to make you laugh, said Larry Davis, his father. He is a comedian that loves to light up the room.
His passion is baseball. Cooper had played Little League in Greenwood for the past five years, with his father Larry as his coach.
‘Pain was on the inside’
Cooper was in the middle of the spring season this past May when he started complaining of back pain. At times, the soreness bothered him so much that he sat out some of his baseball games.The pain was intermittent, coming and going over the course of days and weeks. Sometimes, Cooper was running around the bases full speed, sliding, jumping to field a ball. Other times, he hobbled like an old man.“He kept saying that the pain was on the inside. When they were twisting his legs around or moving his body, it didn’t hurt. It seemed to come from the inside,” Sandy Davis said.
When his mother took Cooper into the pediatrician for his sixth-grade physical, the doctor suspected it was a sport injury. The family was referred to a sports medicine doctor, but no cause for the pain could be found.
Cooper went through physical therapy, thinking that maybe his body was growing too fast for his muscles to keep up. But the pain grew more intense.
On July 16, the family returned to his pediatrician still searching for answers. They were recommended to a pediatric orthopedic specialist, but the next night, before they could make the appointment, Cooper suffered his worst setback yet.
“He woke up at 3 a.m. screaming, saying that he couldn’t get to sleep because his back hurt so bad. He couldn’t move, he wouldn’t let us touch him, he couldn’t get comfortable,” Sandy Davis said. “Everything he did hurt.”
His parents were able to get him pain medication and allow him to sleep for a few hours, but by the morning, the pain was back. The family made an appointment that day with an orthopedist at Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University Health in Indianapolis.
‘A whirlwind, a freight train’
That morning, the physician at Riley recognized immediately that Cooper’s malady did not fit a traditional sports injury. Scans showed that the back pain he had been experiencing stemmed from three broken vertebrae in his lower back.Because Cooper had not been in a serious accident or fall that would cause that type of damage, doctors started looking for other potential causes.Blood work showed that Cooper had a proliferation of blasts in his blood, partially formed white blood cells, which are indicators of leukemia. A bone marrow biopsy confirmed on July 18 that it was leukemia. More than 75 percent of the cells in his bone marrow were the cancerous blasts.
“It was unreal, going in for back pain and finding out it was leukemia,” Sandy Davis said. “It was a whirlwind, a freight train that didn’t stop moving.”
Cooper had B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia, one of the most common childhood cancers. His disease is Philadelphia chromosome- positive, meaning that Cooper had a gene that made the cancer more difficult to treat.
Within four days from coming into the hospital for back pain, Cooper started his first session of chemotherapy.
His specific diagnosis required an aggressive, long-term course of treatment. Cooper would receive chemotherapy multiple times a week over 10½ months, lasting all the way until May 2016. That time frame can extend if Cooper suffers delays, Larry Davis said.
In the current round, he visits the Riley Hospital clinic once a week for chemotherapy then gets doses three more times a week at home. Chemotherapy pills are taken every day.
The chemotherapy is killing off much of his blood cells along with the cancerous blasts, so Cooper requires hemoglobin and blood transfusions.
much light’The treatment has transformed the happy, active teenager.“It changes,” Larry Davis said. “He can be wiped out one minute, and two minutes later, he wants to play a game. So you drop what you’re doing and play, because you have to take advantage of those moments.”
Cooper is constantly fatigued, sometimes sleeping 22 hours a day. He has lost 20 pounds in the past two months.
He does physical therapy to build back up the strength to walk on his own. Only recently did he start moving without a walker.
“That’s what has been so hard. We miss him. He’s the light in this house, and he brings so much light wherever he goes,” Sandy Davis said.
That light that Cooper has always brought has been recovered in some small part by the outpouring of support that people around the family have displayed. The family has asked anyone wanting to help to pray for them. But people want to do more.
Dugan Air purchased and installed an air purifier for their home to decrease the chances of Cooper getting sick while his immune system is compromised. Others helped professionally clean carpets and other surfaces in their home to eliminate contaminants.
“Some of these people, we don’t have a clue who they are,” Larry Davis said. “They don’t even know us. We’ve had bags dropped off at the door full of gifts. It’s been unbelievable.”
an focus on Cooper’Neighbors mow their lawn and clean their pool without being asked. People have volunteered to do laundry for the family. The family hasn’t had to cook a meal since the diagnosis.“We don’t have to focus on those other things, we can focus on Cooper,” Sandy Davis said. “We would have done that anyway, but those other things would have fallen by the wayside, and because of (others’ help), those things haven’t had to.”
Greenwood schools has been active in supporting the family. Teri Manship, a teacher at the middle school, has volunteered to come to teach Cooper when he feels up to it. She has done that with students with leukemia in the past and never had a student fall behind a year.
Both Southwest Elementary School, where Cooper attended for the past six years, and Greenwood Middle School, where he was supposed to start sixth grade in August, have hosted rallies and fundraisers.
“We’ve always taken an angle with the kids that this is a time in your life when you need to realize there are other people in the world. There are people to help and you need to see where you can help out with those folks,” said Chris Sutton, principal at Greenwood Middle School. “It’s important to take care of the community and the people around you, and now is a time for them to get in the habit of that.”
Supporters call themselves “Cooper’s Troopers.” T-shirts and bracelets feature a fedora, Cooper’s signature look. They’ve also adopted the image of the Stormtroopers from the “Star Wars” films as their mascot. Accompanying the logo is a Bible verse, Jeremiah 29:11, which reads: “’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’”
“We’re open with him. We talk about everything. There have been questions about why this has happened,” Larry Davis said. “But we’re seeing a lot of things happen spiritually, in a lot of people.”
Overwhelmed by kindness
Dozens of fundraising efforts have popped up since the diagnosis. Supporters have planned a golf tournament in October. A motorcycle ride is already on the books for June.A charity softball game organized by Greenwood Little League is scheduled for this weekend, along with a bake sale, gift basket auctions and concession stand sales. A fall season baseball club in Greenwood has named themselves Cooper’s Troopers in recognition, making Cooper an honorary member.The concession stand at the baseball diamond offers a Cooper’s Combo of his favorite items — a chili or cheese dog, fries and medium drink.
“Cooper and his family have been a part of the Little League for a number of years, and this is something we wanted to get involved with because this is one of our own,” said Jim Gray, organizer of the softball tournament. “A child with this condition is heartbreaking. You want to get involved to help, even if you don’t know the family well. That’s why we made it easy to come out and participate.”
All of the proceeds will go toward the mounting medical costs that will build up over the course of Cooper’s treatment.
“We literally cry sometimes when we go to the mailbox. It’s overwhelming how kind people are,” Sandy Davis said.
Melanie Gorrell, a friend, is helping to spearhead a bone marrow and blood drive in late September at Greenwood Christian Church.
Cooper is finishing up his seventh week of treatment. So far, no cancer cells have appeared in his spinal fluid, so the cancer hasn’t spread that far.
Doctors still aren’t sure if Cooper will need a bone marrow transplant. If the chemotherapy is working to eliminate the blast cells in his bone marrow and those cells make up less than 10 percent of all of the cells, he won’t need one.
“That’s our new target,” Larry Davis said.
The Davis family understands that the next year, and possibly beyond, will be filled with challenges. They have not shied away from talking to Cooper about the potential outcomes of his disease, both negative and positive.
But through their faith, they believe that they will survive.
“We have a peace about this,” Sandy Davis said. “We don’t feel like God makes any mistakes. There’s a reason Cooper has to go through this, and we just know that God’s going to take care of him going through it.”
Cooper Davis Charity Softball Game
When: 9 a.m. today
Where: Greenwood Little League fields, 320 S. Washington St.
What: A co-ed softball event to benefit Cooper Davis and his family. All proceeds go to the family for medical expenses.
Four divisions: Youth (ages 10 to 14), recreational, semi-competitive and competitive. All divisions co-ed.
Each team is guaranteed two games minimum.
Home runs will cost $5 to keep on the board
Registration: $100 per team, or $10 individuals
Other attractions: Concession stand sales, bake sale, gift basket raffles, Cooper Trooper T-shirts
Information: E-mail Jim Gray at firstname.lastname@example.org or go to GreenwoodBaseball.com.
Upcoming Cooper’s Troopers fundraisers
Sept. 27: 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., blood and bone marrow registry drive, Greenwood Christian Church, 2045 Averitt Road.
Oct. 17: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Operation Cooper’s Troopers, a golf, putt-putt and game event, Orchard Golf Center, 251 N. State Road 135, Greenwood. All donations go to medical expenses for the Davis family.
GoFundMe page: gofundme.com/zqxgds
Facebook: Cooper’s Troopers