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Column: Todd Bailey never lost his sense of humor

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EDITOR’S NOTE: News-Sun editor Todd Bailey was diagnosed with an aggressive sarcoma in his left calf in early 2020. In Oct. 2020 Todd had his left leg amputated two inches above the knee in order to fight the cancer. Early last week, while at M.D. Anderson Hospital in Houston for a medical procedure Todd was informed the cancer had metastasized in his lungs and his time was short. He intended to write one last column, but ran out of time, passing away at 4:08 a.m. Sunday morning. This last column chronicling Todd’s battle with cancer is written by longtime friend and News-Sun Publisher Daniel Russell.

This last Friday morning, Todd and I were at his place. We talked about him writing his next column on his cancer journey. He said he wanted to write another column and would work on it.

I joked with him that if he didn’t get it done, I would write a column for him. But I told him in my version I would out him as a closet Texas Longhorn fan.

He gave me a long stare — or more of a glare — and then quickly insisted he would get to work on it when he got the time over the coming days or week. We smiled.

But he ran out of time.

On Sunday morning at 4:08 a.m., Todd, 49, passed away surrounded by his family. Although the timing was not what he expected, it was how he wanted it to be — with this family.

Todd has shared some of his journey in his fight against cancer. He didn’t get a chance to tell his final tale. So unfortunately, here is the best I could cobble together.

First, lets be abundantly clear. Todd is not and never was a Texas Longhorn fan. He was a Boomer Sooner tried and true. It was in his blood. Key chains, visor caps, license plates, t-shirts. You name it, if it could be branded OU, he would love it.

In Todd’s last column, he wrote of him receiving radiation treatments in Houston. When those ended weeks ago, he came back to Hobbs for several weeks of rest and then he drove back to Houston a week and half ago to begin pre-operation tests for a surgery Nov. 1 to remove a couple of cancerous spots. Yes, just a week and a half ago he was up to driving 10 hours from Hobbs to Houston — oxygen bottles flowing in passenger seat. Probably listening to Depeche Mode or a Dodger’s game.

But on Monday, the diagnosis wasn’t good. MD Anderson told him there was nothing more to be done. That cough he developed about five weeks ago was the cancer now in his lungs. On Thursday, he and sister — who had joined him in Houston — flew home by private flight back to Hobbs.

By Friday, hospice was called in. He got his affairs in order. Visited with his priest. Saturday he watched the OU game and got to see them win. By Saturday night, his final path was clear. His sister, who has been amazing taking care of her brother’s final days, said his last moments Sunday were peaceful and the way Todd wanted.

During his nearly year and half cancer fight, Todd always kept his sense of humor. He kept working, even if it was remotely. The pandemic’s impact on virtual meetings and quarantining actually was perfect for the needs of an editor sitting in Houston covering events and meetings in Hobbs.

He had lived here most of his life. Knew most everyone. We joked it was rare a person in Lea County Todd didn’t know or have a connection to.

Indeed, we were always more shocked when he didn’t know someone. It was part of what made him perfect for being editor at the News-Sun.

Another quality also made him perfect for being editor: Todd deeply cared about Hobbs and Lea County. He knew the issues. He knew the history. We could always bounce ideas off him. He wanted what was best for this area, the people, its institutions.

He had to sometimes make tough decisions but he never forgot where he came from and this was his community.

Throughout his cancer fight, Todd took everything like a champ. At times, he made it look too easy. But behind his great sense of humor, he struggled at times like anyone would. The worst I can say is he had his grumpy moments. Tired. Exhausted. Pain. And frustrated in the forced changes he faced. But he quickly rebounded from those rough spots to soldier on.

Things he hated along the way? He hated losing the leg. He didn’t miss the massive amount of pain the sarcoma in his left calf caused but he hated to lose the leg. Actually, it was more he hated having to hop to get around with a walker. A wheelchair would only carry him so far, to so many places. He was ever so thrilled when he got his artificial leg, even if he still needed to use a walker to assist in his balance. Nothing worse than having to wake up in the middle night, knowing if you wanted to use the restroom because of a full bladder from chemo, you would have to hop.

He hated Houston humidity. I think he made that clear so we won’t go into that again.

He hated he didn’t get to the Hobbs football game Friday night.

He hated multi-grain Cheerios. If you were getting him Cheerios, they had better be Honey Nut.

He hated stuff and clutter. He and I went around and around about getting him crutches way at the beginning. He and his friend Raul talked about wheel chairs. He and his sister talked about stuff he would need like special soft bedsheets made for those undergoing chemo. He always asked what was he supposed to do with it when he was done?

He hated the thought of being a burden on anyone despite him being one of the most generous persons around. He would drop everything to help anyone. He didn’t want to be burden on his mom, his sister, the rest of his incredible extended family or even his friends.

He hated being in the hospital and wait times in between treatments. Mostly, he didn’t want to be in hospital — whether it was to get a PICC line put in or just for observation with his coughing. He wanted his comfortable bed. He wanted his sleep. He didn’t want to be poked with IV’s and needles. A Braum’s chocolate shake run usually assuaged his unhappiness though.

He hated cancer. It took his friends. It took his dad, who he always sorely missed. Cancer is an evil that takes and takes.

I’ll close with this.

If kindness and generosity and love from a community could heal, Todd would have been a healed man. Never was there a day that someone didn’t reach out to him to offer encouragement or help. Never. Over the course of a year and a half, never.

Whether it was Hobbsans rallying to provide him a private airplane ride home or bringing him cookies or a ride to the doctor, there was always someone there to help. There are so many acts of kindness too numerous to mention here it would be impossible to list them all. It is a reflection of the measure of community, so I know Todd would want me to say thank you again.

When he wrote his first column about beginning his cancer fight, he was stunned at the support he received. The calls, texts, Facebook posts, people stopping him out in public. He had commented to me he didn’t expect that much support, that type of reaction. He was enormously touched and truly humbled.

So on behalf of Todd, thank you Hobbs and Lea County. Thank you to his many family and friends who were there for him. Oh, Go Boomer Sooners.

 

Daniel Russell is the publisher of the News-Sun.

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