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Concert to benefit 'Paxton Strong'

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By Leslie Moore

 

Like most 5-year-old boys, Paxton Bloyd loves Superman and Spiderman, and wants to go outside so he can swim and play basketball. But his central line, a long tube that delivers medicine and blood transfusions through a vein in his chest, must stay dry at all times.

And in the more than 100 days that Paxton has been a patient at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, he has gotten to come home for a total of four of them.

Paxton's father, Cheslee Bloyd, said he remembers that until this year, Paxton seemed to never get sick. And when his mother, Jamie Ennis Bloyd, discovered an enlarged lymph node on the left side of his neck, his doctor wasn't overly concerned about it. But it bothered Jaime so much that she insisted on getting a second opinion.

So on Feb. 27, Paxton's lymph node was biopsied. Six days later, Paxton was admitted to the hospital and diagnosed with Stage 4 Burkitt's Lymphoma.

"We just have to take it day by day," Cheslee Bloyd said of the months-long ordeal that has forever changed his family.

"He's a very determined, strong-willed little boy. He's very tough," Bloyd said.

So tough that he has endured five rounds of chemotherapy and intense side effects that followed. Paxton finished his fifth round of chemotherapy on June 14. Once his white blood cell counts recover, Paxton will begin his sixth.

Bloyd said Paxton gets frustrated about how he must be isolated most of the time to protect his fragile immune system. He is rarely allowed to leave his hospital room.

"Being in a hospital room for a 5-year-old boy is hard on him, but he does well," Bloyd said.

Stan Curry, Paxton's great-uncle and godfather, said he isn't allowed to have many visitors. And when Curry does get to visit him, he is required to wear a mask and gloves.

"To see a child in that position, for that long, he has got to be a strong child," Curry said. "And to not understand what the illness is you're going through, he doesn't understand cancer at 5 years old."

It is Paxton's positive attitude throughout his treatment that started the "Paxton Strong" movement.

Although the Bloyds now live in Lexington, Jamie grew up in Campbellsville, and her parents, Larry and Beverly Ennis, also made their careers in education here.

Bloyd said the support they have received from the local community, all over Kentucky and even beyond, has been overwhelming.

Jamie Browning, chairman of Elk Horn Baptist Church's fundraising team, has followed Paxton's story since the beginning and proposed to the church leadership team that they organize a fundraiser for Paxton.

"We want to bless this family and help them pay their medical bills," Browning said.

The church decided to host a concert featuring Christian group Finding Favour, with all proceeds after the cost of the band going to the Bloyd family. Browning said the group's songs "Shake the World" and "Slip on By" have aired on Christian radio stations.

"They just released the first song on their second CD called 'Say Amen' and it's really doing well in Christian radio," Browning said.

Tickets went on sale in April for $15. But last week, an anonymous donor in Louisville offered to pay for the expense of the concert. After consulting with the Bloyd family, lead pastor Brian Rafferty said the church has decided that admission will be free.

The concert is Friday at 7 p.m. at Elk Horn Baptist Church. Although the concert is now free, seating is limited to 500. Free tickets are available at "The Book" Store in Green River Plaza.

Those who have already purchased a ticket can receive a refund at the concert.

Rafferty said a love offering will be collected for the Bloyd family and that he hopes the concert will raise $5,000.

"We just feel that as Christians we should give back," Rafferty said. "God says that whatever you give, he'll give back, and so you'll never go wrong by blessing people."

The Bloyds will not be able to attend the concert, but Bloyd said he hopes the concert will raise awareness for pediatric cancer.

The "Prayers for Paxton" Facebook page that has documented the Bloyd family's journey has more than 13,000 followers.

Paxton frequently receives bundles of letters and cards, gifts and drawings from his supporters. And one would be hard-pressed to find a church prayer list that doesn't have Paxton's name on it.

"Without the support we've gotten, I don't know how we would have done it," Bloyd said.

Paxton's test results show that he has been in remission for almost two months. Bloyd said Paxton's treatment should be completed in September so he can finally come back home. He said having to be in Cincinnati with Paxton has been especially difficult for their 3-year-old daughter, Ansley. She stays with them at the Ronald McDonald House or with her grandparents in Greensburg.

"One of the hardest parts about all this is that we've all been separated at some point," Bloyd said.

But Bloyd said this experience has strengthened his family's faith in God.

"God is in control and he will always take care of us," Bloyd said. "If you're ever in a situation and you feel like there's no hope, give your needs to God and he will take care of you."

Curry said Paxton's experience has also changed him. One night he received an eye-opening text message from Jamie. She asked him to pray for the family in the next room because their child had gone into cardiac arrest.

"Does that not put life in perspective? It's a children's hospital. All of them don't come out of there, so for the ones that do, they're so lucky. Paxton is so lucky. Thank the good Lord, he's OK. He's headed in the right direction," Curry said.

Bloyd said he hopes his family's experience will raise awareness for all children with cancer.

"If you want to donate to Paxton that's great, but please remember there are kids all over the world suffering from cancer who need support too."

Donations can be made to "Paxton Bloyd Special Fund" at any Forcht Bank location.

Cards and packages can also be sent to Paxton at Robert Paxton Bloyd, c/o Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, 3333 Burnet Avenue, Cincinnati, OH 45229-3039. Write "Patient Mail" on the front of the envelope.