Cody Roden will not only graduate from Phoenix High School tonight, he’ll do so on time, despite battling illness for most of his life that has affected but never stalled his education.
“When he was six weeks old, he had RSV (respiratory syncytial virus) and that turned into pneumonia,” said Roden’s mother, Carla Garcia. “They had to fly him up to T.C. Thompson (in Chattanooga). He stayed in a coma for 10 days. After he got out of the coma, he had to stay eight more days before he came home.”
But the real test was yet to come.
“When he was 4, he was playing on the trampoline. He was at my daughter’s, and he started bleeding,” Garcia said. “She called me, and we all went to the hospital. They did an ultrasound and told us he had a two-pound tumor.”
Roden was diagnosed with Wilms’ tumor, a kidney cancer that typically occurs in children. It had destroyed his right kidney and metastasized into both his lungs.
“They sent us back to T.C. Thompson, and the next day he had surgery,” Garcia said. “He was there for a week, then we went to St. Jude in Memphis. He was there for a month the first time. He got chemo and radiation, and when we came back he continued his chemo at T.C. Thompson.”
Roden says he remembers little of that time.
“He knew he was sick, but he didn’t know how serious it was at the time,” Garcia said. “As he got older, he realized just how sick he was. We’ve had to keep going back to St. Jude. But his last visit will be this July.”
Roden says he’s looking forward to not having to go back to St. Jude anymore.
“They have a lot of good people there, but it will be nice not to have to go,” he said.
The battle with cancer, and the treatments he had to take, left Roden with a weakened immune system.
“He got sick a lot over the years. Sometimes it was a struggle for him to be there (at school), and when he did miss days he had to make up his tests and work,” said Garcia. “But he passed ever year.”
Roden said he never thought of giving up.
“He always talked about how important it was. I think it made it extra special for him that he had to struggle so hard,” said Garcia.
Roden attended Southeast Whitfield High School and then entered Coahulla Creek High School when it opened in 2011. But he had a seizure that year and had to be put on a new medication for that. He finished the school year through a home-based program and enrolled at Phoenix High School at the start of this school year. Phoenix is a school for “students who cannot or choose not to remain in a regular high school program,” according to its website. The school is jointly funded and operated by the Dalton and Whitfield school boards.
“It (Phoenix) was better for him because he had to be out of school so much with doctors appointments and things like that,” Garcia said.
Phoenix High School counselor Beth Hayes says she was very impressed by Roden’s desire to complete high school.
“Rarely have I seen the dedication and persistence in a young man that I have seen in Cody,” she said. “He is not a quitter, and I think that because of his tenacity and determination there’s nothing that can stop him.”
GRADUATION: The graduation for Phoenix High School is tonight at 7 at the trade center.