Game changer

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 29, 2010

What started as a sore throat has become a battle for his life for T.J. Fleming, an LBW Community College Saints baseball player. Fleming was recently diagnosed with a rare form of cancer.

Fleming, a 2008 Florala High School graduate, began his post-secondary baseball career at Enterprise-Ozark Community College before transferring to LBWCC.

Next Tuesday would have been his first baseball game for the Saints; instead he will be preparing to undergo his second round of chemotherapy at the University of Alabama at Birmingham Medical Center.

Fleming’s mother, April, said the family believes Fleming’s problems began between October and November.

“It started out a simple sore throat,” she said. “We got medicine for that, but the problem got worse. He hurt all the time, so we went to Dothan to a doctor who said it just didn’t sit right with him and sent us on to Birmingham.

“I didn’t catch on as to how serious things were until we got to Birmingham,” she said. “It took 40 something tests, but they think they’ve narrowed it down to a rare form of cancer in his saliva gland.”

His brother Bobby said a recent chemotherapy session last Friday turned out to be a success.

“The knot in his chest went away and some swelling has subsided in his neck,” he said. “It looks like it’s working.”

What also was working were the minds of the community as they planned a fundraiser to help the Fleming family with some of the expenses associated with T.J.’s treatment.

Saturday night, the Liberty Hill Assembly of God band, Glorious Disaster, will sponsor a benefit concert to help Fleming’s family pay for gas, lodging and food expenses while traveling from Florala to Birmingham.

Keith White, Liberty Hill Assembly of God youth pastor and benefit coordinator, said the concert came at a “spur of the moment” but expects an outstanding turnout.

“Some of the kids came up just about the time when T.J. was diagnosed, and they wanted to do a concert for him to take up some money to help his folks out,” White said. “It was just ‘seat of the pants’ type of thing.

“Now, there are a lot of people wanting to get involved,” he said.

White stressed that people are not to bring food to the concert, which kicks off at 6:15 p.m. and will last a little more than an hour.

“We’re going to rock out,” he said.

Admission to the concert is free and any donation can be made through the Florala, Andalusia and Opp branches of Wachovia Bank under the account “Liberty Hill Church-T.J. Fleming.” All donations are tax deductible.

“It doesn’t matter what people can give, just as long as they give,” White said.

A large scrapbook will be at the door at the FHS gymnasium for everybody to sign and wish Fleming well.

“We just kind want to show them some support,” he said. “I don’t want this to turn into a cry fest. That’s just not who T.J. is. He’s always got a smile on his face and he’s a fighter.

“We believe he’s going to come out of this fine,” he said. “He’s always been a joy to be around. He’s just a good kid. You hate to see something like this happen. He’s a very positive kid and he’s got the right attitude. I just want to see support behind him.”