Autism study leads to leukemia diagnosis for Edmond teen

Kids with Courage
Data pix.

EDMOND, Okla. (KFOR) - Cody Bryant is laughing and playing with his pet dog, Lucy, in his front yard.

This is a good day, far from a hospital room.

"It was great when the last chemo round stopped and I was allowed to go home and see family members and see my dogs," the 17-year-old from Edmond said when asked about the best part of the last six months of his life.

His mother, Tami, remembers being worried and puzzled by Cody's health problems at that time. He was constantly exhausted.

"I remember the Saturday of my father's funeral, and Cody could barely walk," she said.

Cody's health decline came on the heels of a long search for the cause of other serious health issues. One of them began with a simple spider bite.

The small bite turned into a large lesion, and soon other sores followed.

"Just a pin stick would turn into a giant lesion. He had them all over his body and we had teachers calling us thinking we were burning our son. It was horrible," Tami said.

An observant doctor finally diagnosed Cody with Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, which means his body doesn't generate collagen correctly. It explains why his body is slow to respond to small wounds and his joints often ache.

Cody also has a mild form of autism called Asperger's syndrome, and one of his psychologists, Dr. Willis Holloway with the Cutting Edge Research Group, picked up on the symptoms that led to his third diagnosis of leukemia.

"Cody was involved in an autism study with a local psychiatrist, and the psychiatrist came to me and said, 'Something doesn't look right with the blood work,'" says Cody's dad, Chris.

Cody adds, "Leukemia is something I had heard of, but never fully realized what it was."

Leukemia explained Cody's exhaustion and hip pain.

"When you have leukemia cells filling up your hip bones, it causes a lot of pressure where you get a lot of hip pain," explains Dr. Chinni Pokala, with Jimmy Everest Center for Cancer.  He says chemotherapy has put Cody's leukemia into remission as hoped.

Cody's strength to endure extreme nausea and be involved in his treatment plan impressed Dr. Pokala.

"He wants to be involved as much as possible and always asks a lot of good questions."

Cody says the worst part was "the first stages (of chemo) because there's been a lot of nausea, a lot of staying in the hospital and headaches.  It was horrible for me."

His mom nods and says, "He's tough, so tough, he's been through so much in his life."

Cody's last difficult stage of intensive chemotherapy is almost over, and now Cody can see the light at the end of the tunnel, even though months of maintenance therapy is still ahead.

His mom adds. "This is one of the best hospitals.  Seriously, they've awesome here."

During a clinic visit, Dr. Pokala asks Cody if he's been playing video games. He knows that it's a good sign of how well Cody is feeling if he wants to pick up the controller for a few games. Cody smiles and says he has been playing.

He reflects. "This experience has made me a lot stronger in a lot of ways."

If you'd like to help kids like Cody fight cancer, consider donating to JECFriends.org.

Kids with Courage is sponsored by Friends of the Jimmy Everest Center.

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