The spirit of a ‘Warrior’

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The Beadnell family (from left) Josh, Levi, Kylie and Holden had the opportunity to visit the Outer Banks in the summer of 2021.

Josh Beadnell battled on the football field, hunted prey in the fields, but nothing prepared him for the battle he is waging today

By Leigh Ann Rutledge

Associate Editor

Josh Beadnell is the epitome of the “fighting spirit” and “being a warrior.”

From the football field as a Carrollton Little Warrior to tracking deer in the woods to now, fighting a daily battle against cancer, he is truly a Warrior. 

His wife, Kylie (Leggett) calls him “her rock,” noting he was always healthy and had no other health issues.

Beadnell, 32, of Mechanicstown, was a healthy, married, father-of-two, on summer break from teaching school when he began having headaches, getting dizzy and being nauseous. Assisting a painter, he would experience these symptoms after working at varying heights. 

Thinking he had vertigo, he went to the emergency room June 22, 2020, when the symptoms increased. 

Two days later, June 24, he underwent brain surgery  after a CT scan revealed a mass in the back of his brain and the need for an immediate craniotomy. 

Kylie remembers sitting in the emergency room waiting on the MRI to confirm Josh had a bad case of vertigo.

“An hour later I was staring at a little enhanced circle in the middle of Josh’s brain listening to the doctor tell us it shouldn’t be there,” said Kylie. “Fast forward a few months and a brain surgery later, and we were told his radiation and chemo did not work. His tumor had grown back to 60 percent of the size it was before.”

Josh returned home from the hospital June 30. Kylie kept friends and well-wishers up to date with her Facebookposts. At the time, pathology showed Josh had a high-grade glioma. On July 10, 2020, the neuro-oncologist gave it a name and stage; stage 4 glioblastoma, one of the worst types. They removed 95 percent of the tumor during surgery but the family was told, being stage 4, this type of tumor recurs very fast. 

His course of treatment would be proton radiation and chemo pills for six weeks; then off for four weeks before beginning another round of chemo for six months to one year. On a good note, the neuro-oncologist said the mutation Josh has tends to have more options and optimistic results. 

Sitting in the Carrollton Elementary gymnasium before the holiday break this past December, Josh explained he is back to doing what he did before, “It’s all just harder,” he said.

He wants to thank everyone who helped them during the past months and let everyone know things are going well. 

“The people and local businesses who helped are amazing,” Beadnell said. “If you think about it, almost everyone in town has helped us in one way or another.”

A dedicated athlete, Josh graduated from Carrollton High School in 2007 and was a four-year letterman on the football team. He attended West Liberty University and played on special teams his freshman year. He rotated in with the defensive ends the next three years for the Hilltoppers. An outdoorsman, he could often be found hunting or fishing.

Josh began his career as a varsity assistant coach with the Carrollton Warriors football team July 1, 2012. He was a substitute teacher for Carrollton Schools before being hired full time June 28, 2013. 

During the first month of recovery after surgery, Josh posted on Facebook July 4, “Thank you everyone for the prayers and wishes. It means more than you know to realize how many people I’ve got in my corner.” He told followers he couldn’t wait until Thursday so “we can actually get a plan in action because I am not the sit around and wait type.”

During July 2020, residents began to hold fundraisers for the Beadnells, such as the #Beadnell Strong t-shirt fundraiser and Kherrington Roudebush, a member of the Carroll County 4-H program, announced she was selling her hog and donating the funds to her gym teacher, Coach Beadnell. Friends working at Sandy Springs Brewing Company in Minerva donated their cash tips from one night and Sandy Springs donated 20 percent of the total sales to the Beadnells. Other benefits, such as a jewelry sale and spaghetti dinner and a poker run were held.

It was during this time; Josh made his first trip to the hospital for a fluid pocket causing pressure. A total of 50cc was drained. 

He began his treatment Aug. 2. Kylie noted the “three little white pills” were what she had been praying for and dreading.  Josh rang the bell Sept. 17 to signal the end of the first treatment. 

The first MRI after radiation and chemo was Oct. 12 and showed some enhancements which the doctor thought was a tumor. Josh and Kylie traveled to Texas near the end of November to see about a clinical trial. While there, Josh’s diagnosis was changed to Diffuse Midline Giloma, which is a rare cancer for adults. They were told he would need another surgery to clear out the damage from radiation and try to remove the residual tumor left after the last surgery. 

Josh had a second brain surgery Nov. 2 and 95 percent of the tumor was removed. A small amount near the brain stem could not be removed. After recovering from surgery, the couple headed to the University of Michigan, where Josh was chosen for the last spot in a clinical trial. While in Michigan, the doctor noticed he had labored breathing and shortness of breath. His legs and lungs were filled with blood clots. 

“I will never forget hearing doctors talk while Josh was sitting on the table and them asking, ‘How is he still up and talking when his lungs look like that?’, Kylie said. “They were amazed he was alive and talking to everyone.”

Once again, his age and being healthy came into play. He was admitted and put on a blood thinner, which was dangerous due to recent surgery. His trial date was set back from mid-December to Jan. 6, 2021.

Two days before Christmas, Josh was taken to the emergency room in Canton when he began having trouble breathing. Kylie has maintained throughout the entire ordeal that Josh was always in the right place at the right time and was admitted due to a brain bleed which required emergency surgery to save his life. Doctors told Kylie it was extremely risky to perform the surgery. An IVC filter was also put in place to protect blood clots from entering his lungs. 

When the doctor talked to her after the surgery, he told her how lucky Josh was to have been in the hospital because they would not have been able to get to the hospital in time and in surgery. (The couple live in the country out near the former Sterling Mine.)

After recuperation, “the stars aligned” and Josh was approved for the  drug trial  March 12, 2021. He had a shunt placed to remove the fluid pocket (he was having double vision and the hope was the shunt would improve his vision) and had some issues with blood clots and fluid build-up. 

By May, Josh posted the shunt was working well, his vision was coming back, and things were starting to get better, adding, “I can’t wait to get back to school and coaching.”

Even though his balance is still a struggle, Josh and Kylie worked to keep things as normal as possible for their sons, Levi and Holden, now 8 and 3 years old respectively. They took the boys to Walnut Creek Farm and fishing on the family farm during the summer of 2021.

Josh has an MRI every other month and the family prays the next one will show the tumor is gone.  

On the one-year anniversary, Josh updated friends, noting he was going in for an MRI soon to see if the trial drug was working and he was getting glasses and hoped to be able to drive soon. Again, he showed how humbled he was saying, “Thank you everyone for the prayers, donations, cards, etc.”

“So much has changed over the last few months, it sometimes makes my head spin when I actually think about it,” Kylie stated. “Before all this, we were just your average family; focused on all the things we wanted in the future and working like crazy to make it happen. We had a good life, but we never stopped to appreciate it. We always just assumed there would be time.

“It’s taken two major brain surgeries, brain hemorrhages, a shunt surgery, never ending battles with blood clots and so many other obstacles, I’ve lost track,” Kylie posted. “But Josh and I have always been lucky enough to be exactly where he needs to be at the exact right time.”

It could have something to do with his “fighting spirit” or “being a warrior” since looking back at the Facebook posts, he was almost always wearing a Carrollton Warrior shirt or the gray shorts with the “C” on them. 

In July, they learned the clinical trial medicine is working and the tumor was slightly smaller. They took a trip to the beach, snapped updated sibling pictures at Josh’s parents farm and realized Josh became one of the rare 13 percent of people diagnosed with a brain tumor to survive one year.

At first, Kylie’s way of coping was to spend hours researching diets, medications and trials, etc. She switched how the family ate, cleaned, did any and everything to help Josh. 

“I ended up driving Josh crazy, but at the time it was what I needed to feel like I had some kind of control over my life,” Kylie said. “He’s happy to report I have lightened up with the food. We are now just trying to live healthier since his tumor grows on sugar and carbs.”

The diagnosis has changed both their lives and priorities. Material things seemed more meaningful to them before the diagnosis. Kylie said there is always laundry to be done but there won’t always be time when the kids want movie night. 

“I am just happy for another day with my family. Our time together has become so much more meaningful because the reality of the situation is it could change at any moment,” Kylie said. “We are way more focused on making lasting memories with each other. Until all this happened, I always thought there’d be time for that. Now I am learning to make the time now.”

As for help, the couple say they can’t thank everyone enough. Both Josh and Kylie’s parents have been a big help with the kids, house and animals and people cooked meals for them. Kylie’s workplace, Loudon Motors in Minerva, was very understanding allowing her to leave anytime there was an issue. They had assistance with medical bills, hotel stays, medications, traveling, etc. 

“To say this community and the people in it are good is such an understatement but there isn’t any other way to put it,” the couple acknowledged. 

“We have heard from so many good people; we just can’t express enough thanks.”

Coach Beadnell is back to coaching, even though he has had to learn to coach differently than before, just one way he is getting used to his “new normal.”

“Being back coaching means a lot. Taking a year off was rough,” he said. “I still made it to all the regular season games. I just had to sit in the box.”

Dr. Fair helped Josh get a pair of glasses with prisms that correct his double vision, and he is driving. Asked about his first trip by himself, he smiled and said, “Freedom after being driven everywhere for a year.”

He is back teaching physical education at Carrollton Elementary. He explained the kids knew he was sick and a lot of them wear their “#Beadnell Strong” t-shirts on gym day, he said with a shy smile.

Josh and Kylie were high school sweethearts. They married in 2013 and celebrated their 8th anniversary in June. Kylie noted Josh is an amazing father and would help anyone in need. She continues to update the community via Facebook posts in case the information would be able to help someone else. 

Josh continues to have chemo every Friday and will be on chemo and blood thinners as long as they continue to work. 

The family spent the holidays at home together and Josh continues to build up his stamina but it’s all totally different. 

“Josh has kept a positive attitude through everything that’s been thrown at him and he amazes me everyday,” Kylie said. “I would be lost without him. He is truly the love of my life and my best friend. We have been together over half our lives. He promised to grow old with me and I intend to make sure he keeps that promise.”

“I’m glad to live in a small town,” Josh said. “I just want to thank everyone for all the support and cards, the businesses for helping. It’s amazing.”

Josh had his first MRI of the new year recently. It showed no official growth. 

The couple is looking forward to the future as they embark on a new journey: building a house on the Beadnell family farm.

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