REIDSVILLE, NC :: I really didn’t know how to do this story… me, Corey Latham, the one who is never at a loss for words. But this was different, instead of racing and controversy and talking smack, this was real life and it was one of my friends. But the story needs to be told, my friend said I could so I will. After talking with him I’m not worried because I know the man and the fight he has, things will be ok.
The man is Rodney Cook. You know who he is, he has been racing for many years and even though he hasn’t been racing for National Championships like Lee Pulliam or Philip Morris, there isn’t another driver around our region with a bigger fan base. And this is because of the person he is, he’s old school, a throwback from the past when drivers were drivers and men were men. He can rough you up on the track or get in your car and not even practice his own just to make yours better, that’s just the kind of person he is. But now he has his ultimate fight in front of him as he sits out the 2013 season, Cancer has threw the caution flag on his life. But that’s all it is just like the yellow flag, a short slow-down.
I talked to Rodney a few weeks ago as we talk pretty regular, we just shoot the breeze so to say. He knew then but of course he didn’t say a word, he’s not the type to bring any unwanted attention like that on himself. I saw a few posts on Facebook the next day and whatnot and started asking around. It turned out to be true, he had cancer in 2007 in his leg but it was taken care of and he has been keeping up with it to see if it ever came back. But now, after having pain in his shoulder, it is back again.
So how do you call someone and even ask them something like this? I struggled with that question, but then I thought about who it was. Even though he was fine with me talking about it, I will only say so much, simply because it’s no one’s business. But I will say that Rodney Cook is going to beat this again, there is no doubt in my mind. He was a surprised as anyone with the news.
“I had this aching in my back for a while now, well in my shoulder really,” said Cook. “I probably put off getting it looked at longer than I should have but I thought I had just pulled a muscle or something. We finally went and it was cancer again, this time it had gotten into the bone on my shoulder so I will be getting shoulder replacement surgery, the pain was from a tumor under my arm pressing on a nerve. I have to go this week and see if I’m going to get chemo or radiation or whatever and see what the next steps are.”
Of course we could only talk so long without talking about racing, it’s in his blood.
“We hadn’t even thought anything about it, of course after hearing this news it was the last thing on our minds. But at the doctor the other day my wife said, ‘You know he drives a race car right?”’ The doctor said, ‘Really?’ He said it would be on my own time, of course I will have to go through rehab and whatnot but he said I would have strength in my arm, it’s my right arm so that’s another downside to that. That’s going to be way down the road though; we aren’t really thinking about that right now.”
As modest as Rodney is, you could tell by the tone of his voice that the outpouring of support meant the world to him.
“It’s just amazing the people that have wished me well, it really makes you appreciate everything. From the fans to all the racers that I race against that have called me to check on me, it really shows you how big our racing family really is. That means a lot to me, that’s my support, it brings me confidence. My mind if going a million miles a minute now, I try to stay positive about things and all the support really helps. Speedy (Faucette) called me today, and know we have had a few differences but the past is the past, what happens on the race track is there, this is real life, that meant a lot to me to hear from him. Lee Pulliam called, just so many people, like I was saying all the racers calling just helps so much.”
The community has really come together for Rodney. The whole area around Ace Speedway, especially Reidsville, where Rodney lives, has been nothing but supportive. This Saturday, March 16th, there will be a benefit bake sale and craft auction in front of the Reidsville Fire Dept. at the corner of Scales St. and Williams St. in Redisville NC. The crafts will be auctioned off by Kenneth Smithey with Funwood Auctions. Kenneth is a long-time friend and sponsor of Rodney and even took the #14 backup car out for a few Late model races a couple of years ago. Smithey said he will have another auction at a later date to help Rodney and his family.
That’s one thing I didn’t think I could get Rodney to talk about, these people having benefits for him and whatnot, he is not the type to ask OR want anything form anyone. But people don’t know the deal, while a lot of your Late Model drivers today are pretty well off, Rodney works a regular job just like you and me. He is like just a handful of racers left that fall into the situation Speedy Faucette told me years ago, when asked how he wins so many races against big money Speedy told me, “I WORK ON MY CAR EVERY DAY!” That’s Rodney, he works on his car along with his brother and crew and they get the job done. He knew this was going to be a strain on his family though and he was thankful that people cared enough to try and help him out.
“It’s really amazing,” said Cook. “My insurance only covers so much and all I have after that is vacation time, it’s just something we will have to get through. It’s stressful on my whole family, but we are positive and we will overcome this and keep on going.”
I have no doubt of that. The doctors have said it is treatable and like Rodney said, “This is just another hurdle and we will get through this.” While it’s a big hurdle, I know Rodney can get over it. The season will start at Ace Speedway this year with Rodney’s car on the track, but it will be #15 and Motor Mile driver Johnathon Smith will be behind the wheel as he drives a limited schedule this year. But, even though it’s not supposed to happen, I’ll go ahead and say the ole’ #14 with Rodney behind the wheel will make an appearance before the year is over. And as hard headed as he would be doing that, I hope it happens because it means my friend is well. But, like I said, I’m not worried about that. It’s just a matter of when.