LODA – Since being diagnosed with cancer last August, junior high student Ryan Coe also had to contend with cabin fever after being cooped up in a hospital or in the Ronald McDonald apartments in St. Louis for eight months.
But Ryan filled his time with e-mail messages to his friends in the Paxton-Buckley-Loda schools and making homemade fishing lures.
"All I wanted to do was get away from the city and be outside again," Ryan said. "I wanted to play baseball with my friends. I wanted to play with my dogs. Most of all, I wanted to go fishing."
When Ryan finally was able to return to his home at Loda on April 3, the first thing he did was greet his two coonhounds, Bubba and Duke. The happy hounds leaped to Ryan's side, wagging their tails and licking the boy.
"The dogs really missed Ryan, and I know Ryan missed the dogs," said his mother, Michele Coe.
The second thing Ryan did was to head for the pond behind his family's rural home with his favorite fishing pole and his new fishing lures.
"Nothing beats the feeling of being outside," Ryan grinned.
Last August, Ryan was playing first base in a game for the PBL Junior High Panthers baseball team when he suddenly had trouble breathing and collapsed.
On Aug. 30, doctors diagnosed him as having acute myelogenous leukemia, or AML, a fast-growing cancer of the bone marrow and blood.
"It affects your white blood cells," Michele Coe said. "They double and overcrowd the red cells, so Ryan wasn't getting enough oxygen."
Because red blood cells carry oxygen through the body, reduced amounts of blood cells can cause anemia and leave AML victims short of breath and weak.
Ryan was taken to St. Louis Children's Hospital, which specializes in helping young cancer patients. There he received a bone-marrow transplant from his 6-year-old younger brother, Tanner.
Doctors say that Ryan's body has accepted his brother's bone marrow and that he is on the road to recovery.
"The operation converted Ryan's blood type," Michele Coe said. "He used to be O negative, and now he is O positive."
The communities of Paxton, Buckley and Loda have rallied behind Ryan and his family.
The Panther baseball team members raised about $1,400 by shaving their heads.
His school also had events like hat day and sunglasses day, in which students donated a dollar to wear those items to school.
The teachers held casual Fridays. When they wore jeans and PBL sweatshirts to school they put money in a jar for the Coe family.
Area residents sent the family gift certificates for pizzas and sandwiches, and an account was set up for Ryan at the Farmer-Merchants National Bank in Paxton.
In March, while Ryan was recovering at the Ronald McDonald apartments, students from PBL Junior High collected kitchen and bathroom supplies and food for the various young people staying at the apartments.
Ryan's doctor, Dr. Julie Kanter, ran a marathon in St. Louis earlier this money to raise money for her patients.
In addition, Ryan's teammates wore wristbands bearing his name and number, and area residents kept in touch with the Coe family through an Internet Web site.
"If we didn't have family and friends, I don't know how we would have made it," Michele Coe said.
Ryan's immunity currently makes him susceptible to catching colds, coughs and fevers, so he's receiving tutoring at home from Bill Lee, a former PBL principal.
On April 7, Ryan celebrated his 14th birthday with a feast of shrimp, crayfish, steak and a Dairy Queen cake.
"The best part of it all was being home with my family," Ryan said.
The Loda boy says that his dream is to get well enough to once again patrol first base for the PBL Panthers baseball team.
He said he can't wait to step up to the plate and swing the bat.
"I used to take all that stuff for granted," he said. "After this experience, I treasure every moment."