God works in mysterious ways.
And Andy Bloodworth is a living testament.
Bloodworth wants to inspire others who are experiencing something similar to the hand God dealt him.
The Plainview coach has a prosthetic leg, an artificial appendage that begins about eight inches under his left knee, where his below-the-leg amputation occurred.
He continues to persevere through that life-altering experience, which occurred prior to his move to the north side of the Red River.
No matter the circumstance, the individual’s mindset is crucial, Bloodworth says, and his positive outlook served him well.
“It seems like every year during basketball season, I get blisters,” he says. “The end of my stump, for example this year, split wide open. The liner I wear down there would be very, very bloody.
“The easy thing to do would be to sit at home. It all goes back to playing competitive sports in high school. You’ve got to be there for your teammates.
“There’s a lot of lessons to be learned, but when it’s all said and done, it’s who I am. I haven’t changed one bit from the way I was before. I don’t ever plan on being someone — God’s dealt me the cards, probably for a reason. I’ve fully accepted that and I’m proud of who I am.”
THE SEARCH FOR ANSWERS
A case of “severe” cartilage-based cancer affected his left ankle in 1999 during his first teaching job in Fort Worth.
It was while school was out for spring break that he was working to stay competitive. It was near the end of the recess when he first noticed the malady.
“I played some pickup basketball quite a bit,” he explains. “It was about time to go back to Texas to finish the school year. I noticed some swelling in my ankle. No pain, no discoloration. Nothing.”
He did not recall spraining his ankle, he says, nor was it sore. He showed it to his parents to ask their opinion. They could not discern the cause. Subsequently, they began to search for the right physician.
“We jumped through a bunch of hoops going to various doctors,” he recalls. “Ultimately, [a doctor] came back with the diagnosis that it was cancer, a childhood cancer. It happens to anyone, from a newborn to age 25. Ironically, I was exactly 25.”
They caught the cancer early, while the cells were immature.
Since it was diagnosed as a childhood cancer, Bloodworth did all his treatment at Cook’s Children’s Hospital in Fort Worth.
“That worked out great, because that’s where I was teaching and everything,” he says. “It was like it was almost meant to be. God had a plan for me to get cancer, and for me to get my first teaching job in Fort Worth. It made it really convenient.
“The weeks you’re off chemo, you had to go in twice a week for blood work, so that was convenient.”
THE (PHYSICAL) TOLL
Bloodworth says God has a plan, perspective that did not come immediately. Nonetheless, he fought any and all insidious mental thoughts through about 18-24 months of chemo treatment.
“I’ve never been one to have the ‘Poor Me’ syndrome,” Bloodworth says. “You take it for what it’s worth, accept it and move forward. In the whole scheme of things, as far as cancers, ultimately it was a very, very, very severe type of cancer.
“I never once, and I mean” — he slowed his speech for emphasis on the next three syllables — “never once had the thought that I was not going to make it through it. I never, never had that thought in my mind. It was always, ‘Okay, when I’m out of here, here’s what I need to do.’ I always had a plan of action for afterwards. I couldn’t wait to do this, couldn’t wait to do that. It was a deal where I never even thought about the other side, so to speak.”
At a respectable 6’1” or 6’2” tall, he got down to a frail 141 pounds.
“I was pale as a ghost, no hair anywhere,” he says. “[I was] one-legged, I didn’t have my prosthesis.”
During chemo, he missed a lot of school, as protocol required him to remain infused for six consecutive days.
“Keeping up with school stuff was pretty hard,” Bloodworth admits. “While you’re having all that chemo, you have a lot of down time to think. I was always positive.”
He praised the support he received at his school.
“My basketball team really rallied around me,” Bloodworth recalls. “I continued coaching through that time. A lot of the athletes actually went through it with me. They would come to the hospital. They knew me when I had two original legs, when I was going around for a year and a half with one leg, and they knew me having a regular leg and a prosthesis.
“I was on crutches — it was before I could get fitted for a prosthesis. You look back at it, it was a life-changing moment. I think God has had a plan for me.”
After a few moments’ thought, he adds: “Whatever that might be, I think it probably happened for a reason.
“It really hasn’t slowed me down at all. I continued to teach and coach, everything that I used to do.”
To help pass the time, Bloodworth composed and improvised a to-do list, “a bucket list, so to speak, that you want to jump right out of bed and do once everything is finalized. You’ve got to look at all the positives. You look forward to getting in on that prosthesis, because crutching around for that amount of time was no fun.
“By going through a year and a half of that, whenever you feel you’re having a bad day here — eight, 10 years down the road — you just realize how thankful you are to have that prosthesis and that you can walk, still get out and coach every day.”
One’s attitude can make or break the individual’s situation.
“For those that may be going through hardships, whether it is the loss of a limb or whatnot, it’s all about the attitude and (how) you approach the situation,” Bloodworth advises. “If you do have that ‘Poor Me’ Syndrome, things could snowball from an amputation or whatever it might be, to depression, mental anxieties.
“Everybody’s going to have rough days. It’s how you look at things, how you view life and what you want to make out of it.”
THE NEW JOB
Andy Bloodworth came to Plainview prior to the 2007-08 school year.
He was not married during his medical ordeal, but his wife, Sandy, says the prosthetic leg does not change anything about her husband as a person — save one exception.
“I’ve seen that he’s very resilient, and he is such an inspiration to me and to many others because he doesn’t look at that as anything that would cause any kind of setback,” Sandy Bloodworth says. “He perseveres through any situation. He’s stronger than a lot of people that I know that have no prosthesis or have never gone through what he’s had to go through in order to end up where he is today.”
She’s always been by his side, he says.
Nonetheless, Bloodworth says the end of the 2013-14 Plainview girls basketball season was incredibly painful.
“There’s days where it’s really hard to come to work, to be honest with you, as far as the pain,” he says. “It’s one of those things, sometimes, you’ve got to put your team ahead of you in those situations.
“It’s something that I learned in sports a long time ago: It’s not always just about you. You’ve got teammates around you counting on you. There’s a lot of days that I have to tell myself that.”
His seventh year at Plainview complete, Bloodworth had a successful close to the academic year: The boys golf team won its second consecutive state championship.
Sandy Bloodworth notices her husband’s drive, his perseverance.
“For me, and I’ve seen it through others as well, he pushes through situations,” Sandy Bloodworth says. “He doesn’t use it as an excuse. He gets a lot of blisters, he’s in a lot of pain a lot of times, and he just puts on a good face and pushes through it.
“He goes above and beyond what even a normal person would do. He works harder than I do physically, and he’s very motivational as well.”
Bloodworth also overcame another obstacle: fatherhood.
On April 8, Brock Andrew Bloodworth was born.
“Through my chemotherapy, I was told that it would probably make me sterile. We’ve always wanted kids, but realized it wasn’t meant to be, and I accepted that for what it was. My wife sat me down on the couch about 10 months ago and had a rather peculiar look on her face. She says that she went to the doctor because she hadn’t been feeling good. She says she had both bad news and good news.
“I asked for the bad news, and she says that she is going to be sick for awhile — roughly nine months. Of course, that was the good news, too. I couldn’t be more blessed to have a great little boy and a wonderful wife!”
Bloodworth has two prosthetic legs, one more convenient than the other because it pops on and off more easily. He also says the other one is a lot more comfortable due to its increased mobility, but “it’s a process of putting it on, where this one, that locking pin stays on pretty well.
“It’s more of my convenient leg.”
If you take nothing else from this story, take this: Bloodworth wants you to ask about his prosthetic leg and what he’s been through. He’d prefer questions instead of pointing and surreptitious whispers about his leg.
Bloodworth says he’s talked to quite a few people who called out of the blue and asked to talk.
“That’s something that I’m always open to, if anybody ever does need to,” he says. “Get with me, and just talk. I’m there if need be.”