Central Illinois Sports Report with Elise Menaker: Coffey vs. Cancer

Everyone has those life changing moments.  For one Charleston teen it was the c-word: Cancer.  But Davis Coffey fought back.  Once one pound away from needing a feeding tube, he's since hit the gym and made himself physically and mentally strong.

What makes a person special?  A good arm?  A good voice?  A caring heart?  Or overcoming life's toughest battle?

“He started experiencing symptoms that we just couldn't put our finger on,” explained Davis Coffey's mother Amanda.

“I had swimming lessons and I was freezing in the water, like I couldn't swim at all,” Davis said.  “And everything was cold even though it was summer.”

They went to doctors and left without answers.

“Then on July 5 of 2011, we ended up at St. Louis Children's Hospital,” Amanda said.

A bone marrow biopsy confirmed that Davis had cancer.

“I couldn't believe it,” Davis expressed.  “I didn't think it was real.”

“He was diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia on July 8, which was two days before his 10th birthday,” Amanda said.

Davis celebrated his 10th birthday at the hospital.  After that he would undergo 33 months of chemotherapy, over 50 blood transfusions and 136 trips to St. Louis hospital.

“I can hardly describe the helplessness you feel at times, the range of emotions you go through because almost everything is beyond your control,” Amanda said fighting back tears.

After the first few phases of chemo, Davis dwindled down to a mere 51 pounds, one pound away from needing a feeding tube.

“Which I totally did not want,” Davis said.  “I couldn't really eat and it just didn't feel right because it made me sick.”

That's when Amanda turned to trainer James Di Naso whom she heard about through friends.

“Through some strategic meetings, and planning and research, he was able to bring Davis into The Body Club and work with him and his set of special needs to help him start gaining back body mass,” Amanda explained.

“In my mind, I was kind of flattered that they would come in and think that I was going to do some good and help,” James said.  “The pressure was kind of on me.”

Doctors cleared the weight lifting, so in between chemo sessions James planned modified workouts for Davis training two times a week for half an hour.

“My main concern was making sure that the volume and the intensity of the work that we were going to do was appropriate for how he was feeling,” he said.  “We had him doing various forms of pressing, and pulling, squatting movements, lunging movements.”

“It was exhausting and I woke up sore the next morning,” Davis said.

But Davis stuck with it.

“I like to make fun of James,” Davis joked.

“Total jokester, no inhibition, wondering what he's going to say next,” James said to describe Davis.

Today the 13 year old has nearly doubled his body weight and he now is in remission.

“I realized that different is good and being different is always better,” Davis said.  “I feel like I'm special, more special than how I ever would feel.”

What makes a person special?  For Davis Coffey, it's his courage to be different.

Davis continues to train with James.  Amanda says if Davis can make it five years without the cancer returning, there is a 60 percent chance it won't come back.  As for now, Davis looks forward to trying out for the track team.

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