When Highland County Clerk of Courts Dwight “Ike” Hodson went to work on Thursday, he didn’t expect to see his office staff wearing T-shirts.
But Thursday was an unusual day anyway. Ike’s son, Chad, was at The James Cancer Hospital, having his first tests done since he was diagnosed with an aggressive form of lung cancer in December.
The T-shirts Ike’s deputy clerks wore had been sold at a fundraiser for Chad several months ago, and the clerks donned them Thursday in solidarity with the Hodson family.
On the back of the shirts is the hashtag #TEAMCHAD, above a cross, an electrocardiogram readout and a Bible verse from the book of Romans: “And we know that in all things, God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.”
On the front is the face of Ron Burgundy, a character portrayed by Will Ferrell in the 2004 comedy “Anchorman,” next to the character’s signature line, “I don’t know how to put this, but I’m kind of a big deal.”
Late Thursday morning, Deputy Clerk Alyssa Runyon stood up from her desk and said the office should step outside for a moment. Ike appeared slightly bewildered, but played along.
When the clerks entered the hallway in the courthouse, they saw a crowd of county employees gathered near the front door — all wearing Team Chad T-shirts.
Ike’s eyes filled with tears.
After taking group photos in front of the courthouse, all exchanged hugs and well-wishes as supportive text messages and updates from the hospital inundated Ike’s phone.
Runyon said the clerk’s office had secretly planned the gesture with other county departments as a surprise.
“We just approached other offices and said, ‘Hey, we’re buying these and we’re all going to wear them one day.’”
Ike said Thursday marked three months on the day since Chad’s diagnosis came in.
Chad, who lives in Leesburg with his wife Jana and their three children, coaches the freshman basketball team at Fairfield High School.
When he lost his voice in October last year, he thought he was either hoarse from calling out orders on the basketball court or that he had a simple case of laryngitis.
When his voice didn’t return, he visited an ear, nose and throat specialist.
Chad told The Times-Gazette that hearing the news “was a shock.”
In a diagnosis that “felt like worst-case scenario,” doctors said the cancer had already spread to Chad’s brain and into his spinal cord, causing 12 lesions to develop in his head. One of them had pressed against a nerve leading to one of his vocal cords and caused it to shut down, leading to his hoarse voice.
Ike said if that hadn’t happened, the cancer wouldn’t have been detected until much later.
“We believe that was a God thing,” he said.
Since then, there have been many “God things.” Thanks to the reach of social media, friends and family from Leesburg to Florida to California to Africa are praying and sending well-wishes, Ike said.
From the fundraiser that brought in $12,000, to the endless supply of meals, encouraging messages, phone calls, cards and kind gestures, “the outpouring of support… has just been overwhelming for our family,” Chad said.
But even with all the support, Chad said the past three months have been “a rollercoaster.”
“We’ve had whole days of just negativity when it seems like we can’t get any good news,” he said. “But then we’ve also had days where we’ve had so much positivity.”
For Chad and his family, a high point came late Thursday afternoon when his test results were returned.
A scan of Chad’s head showed only seven of the 12 lesions remained, and of those seven, six were reduced in size. Other cancer “spots” in his body had grown smaller as well.
“That was really as encouraging a report as we could have gotten,” Chad said.
Whether the improvement came from the power of prayer, a rigorous treatment program or a combination of both, Chad said one thing is for certain.
“God has been there with us through every step of it,” he said. “There’s no doubt we are as close to God as we have ever been.”
Chad said Friday that all he had left to say was “Thank you.”
“The prayers, the texts, the calls, the constant support has been unbelievable,” he said. “We can’t say thank you enough to everybody… Just thank you.”
Reach David Wright at 937-402-2570, or on Twitter @DavidWrighter.