Historic City News learned that a 21-year-old single father in Baymeadows is battling stage-3 testicular cancer. We found his story, his commitment, and his outlook compelling; if you consider that he has already lost one testicle and undergone two invasive surgeries at the precipice of adulthood.
Cody Hess is the father of 3-year-old Axel Gray. Cody shares custody of Axel with his ex-wife. He lives with his mother, Lisa Hess, and his partner, Preston Boland. Cody says Axel is “the light of my life”, and he credits his son, extended family, and friends, with giving him the strength to face complications, surgeries and the rigors of further treatment.
“My goal is to make the dangers of testicular cancer, it’s facts, and it’s survival, known to as many people as possible,” Cody told Historic City News editor Michael Gold, during an interview just after returning home from his second trip to the hospital in a week’s time.
Cody’s courageous story began with a shower check. He told us that he noticed “a pea sized ball” and thought it was just back up. But, by the next morning, he said “it felt like it had grown 10lbs and it hurt to walk”. He went to the hospital where he was diagnosed with testicular cancer on Mother’s Day. He now knows that he has 3 types of cancer: testicular, teratoma and seminoma.
Cody wrote that his mom says, “We teach our daughters to check themselves but never think to teach our sons.”
His somewhat unusual, if not irreverent, way of setting the stage to educate others by attracting interest in his own battle is through a facebook blog he calls “play with em’“. His hashtag, #playwithem is on all his t-shirts.
“This took me and my family by complete surprise, as do many cancer diagnoses,” Cody told us. “Knowledge is power and I have to stay in the know, but, it has been difficult finding information on the subject. Testicular cancer is not as widely known as other types of cancers.”
After being diagnosed, Cody said it was like he was stuck in the Twilight Zone.
“Everything felt unreal until my first surgery on June 26th to have my right testicle removed. After the surgery, more blood was taken and my tumor markers had tripled,” Cody explained. “We had a meeting with a few doctors to discuss another surgery. A risky one. Tumors had taken over the main artery in my body. I was informed that the surgery might not even change the outcome.”
Even now, after his second surgery, he understands that his treatment is only beginning. Even though no dates have been set, once he’s healed, he will have to start chemotherapy and radiation.
“Everything is being done at UF Health Shands on 8th Street,” Cody said. “I am very happy with the hospital, the doctors, and even the nursing staff is incredible.”
Of course, all that care must be paid for. That’s where we want to lend a hand by raising awareness of Cody’s condition to our audience.
Lisa, Cody’s mother, has set up an account for friends to assist with Cody’s additional expenses.
His father, Christopher Hess, is a sergeant with the Green Cove Springs Police Department. Cody’s parents have been separated for several years, but his son is never far from his heart. “All of your prayers and financial support, in any way, are greatly appreciated.”
“His many supporters have truly helped build strength in Cody’s spirit,” Lisa said about a recent “Oneblood” drive, organized by her friend, Charlie Skaff. Charlie is part of a band that Cody says holds “awareness nights” for him to help raise money. “So many wonderful friends and family members have stepped up to help my son in so many ways.”
Cody explains that some of his medical expenses are paid through a city contract with UF Health Shands financial department. Because he is 21-years-old, he is not covered by his parent’s health insurance.
He can’t work in this condition, so he is dependent on fundraisers and his donation page to generate money, 100% of which goes towards his expenses, he told us.
“Cody has so much life to look forward to,” Connie and David Meyer told us. The Meyers, Cody’s grandparents, live in Keystone Heights. “It is so true that prayer makes a difference.”
“I couldn’t have done it without the physical and mental support from everyone,” Cody said.
Since the loss of his right testicle, he says his favorite joke has become “Let’s get this ball rolling“. He wrote, “It is much easier, and even healthier, to keep a positive attitude on the whole situation. No sense in falling into a depression and affecting everyone around you.”