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Why Not Me? Todd Oakes Inspires Again in Battling Leukemia

Why Not Me? Todd Oakes Inspires Again in Battling Leukemia

Baseball and balance. 

Growing up in Spring Grove, a small town in southeastern Minnesota, Todd Oakes single-mindedly chased his childhood dream of becoming a Major League Baseball player. 

He advanced further than most; he starred in high school and at the University of Nebraska, and he was drafted by the San Francisco Giants, reaching the Double A, before "literally running out of talent." Then he switched his goal to becoming a Major League Baseball coach. 

Both times, however, Oakes realized his life was out of whack, his pursuit driven by selfish ambition and not Godly purpose. In 1998, he returned to Minnesota, accepting the role as the University of Minnesota's pitching coach. The job enabled him to be more involved with raising his three sons and introduced him to Minnesota FCA Coaches Ministry Director Ron Backes, who helped him learn Three Dimensional Coaching philosophy. 

"I started to learn what it really means to be a Christian coach," Oakes said. "I would like to think the longer I coach, I spend less and less time with the Xs and Os." 

In 2012, his 14th season with the Gophers, Oakes relished the balance in his life.

But he started to feel "lousy," he said. 

In June, Oakes was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia.

"The last thing I thought I was going to hear was some kind of cancer or leukemia," Oakes said. "It blindsided myself and my family."

According to the National Institute of Health, the three-year survival rate is 25 percent.

Oakes spent 50 days in the hospital, ultimately needing 5.1 million healthy stem cells from his brother Gerald.

The treatments resulted in remission, which means his blood count returned to normal.

But 25 months later, leukemia returned.

Oakes faced another long hospital stay, though there was a 10-day stretch he does not remember.

"As I look back, I firmly, firmly believe that with everything I went through, I honestly believe the Holy Spirit took my body over in that hospital bed," Oakes said. "I don't remember one second of pain, or discomfort.

"It was the grace of God."

He regained remission for a second time and walked out of the hospital in December 2014.

But leukemia returned for a third time in September 2015.

"Here we go again," Oakes recalled thinking.

Naturally, Oakes said there have been dark moments, when he's wanted to "lash out at God." 

But he always returns to a question he and his family embraced after his initial diagnosis. 

"Typically, as human beings, we say, ‘Why me?’ Why is this happening to me?’ Maybe especially as Christians, we think we have God on our side and we think, ‘How can God let this happen to me? I’m a good man. I’ve planted good seeds along the way,' " Oakes said. "In 2012, my family and I decided to adopt the attitude of, ‘Why not me?’ "

His favorite Bible verse (Proverbs 3:5-6) keeps him centered - and focused.

Through the highs and lows, Oakes said he tries to "surrender every day to Him."

"It’s not what I want to do, what I want to accomplish," he said. "It’s what His plan is for me today."

Besides, his players and his sons are watching.

"Obviously it’s some adversity, but he’s willing to face it head on," Tyler Oakes said of his father's attitude. "He makes it easy. I think he gives people hope."

And in God's infinite wisdom, Todd Oakes can say something that he never could have imagined.

"It’s actually a blessing," he said. "I hope others can experience the level of love that having something like leukemia has brought me to because it’s been an amazing journey."

Photo credit: Oakes family

So here we go again. It all starts with attitude.

69 comments (Add your own)

1. Larry Gallagher wrote:
Todd, you and your family are truly an inspiration to all of us who know you no matter how much we have suffered or gained in life, you and your family show us how to persevere and claim the Lord as our Savior and with him all things are possible. Thanks for how you have lived your life out in front of us. May God Bless You and Your Family. Thank you.

Thu, February 11, 2016 @ 9:50 PM

2. carl fruechte wrote:
Todd, You my sir are a true hero! this country needs more men like you! God bless! Carl

Fri, February 12, 2016 @ 1:26 PM

3. Jon Springer wrote:
Todd, you are an inspiration to all. Your gift of coaching many baseball pitchers but more importantly your example on how to lead life is an example how we should live. I enjoy your writings on Caring Bridge and am looking forward to reading your book. You are in my daily prayers.
God Bless you and your family.

Fri, February 12, 2016 @ 2:29 PM

4. B Pond wrote:
I work with your son Tanner. You have done well. What an inspiration you are . Continue to follow after God's heart and know He is in control. My family will be praying for you and yours.

Thu, February 25, 2016 @ 10:42 AM

5. Taylor Vander Aarde wrote:
Thanks for your inspiring, encouraging and faithful example, TO! What God has done through you is awesome and a testament to both Him and you!

Sun, February 28, 2016 @ 8:01 AM

6. Jeff Conway wrote:
God bless you and your family. You are in our prayers, stay strong.

Sun, March 20, 2016 @ 12:58 PM

7. Torrey Johnson wrote:
Todd, We do not know each other but was given a link to your video from Ron Backes. Thank you for highlighting the un-explainable love you now have for God, family and friends. It reminds me of the good we learn from trials. Granted trials are painful and do not wish the pain on anyone however if we accept the teaching that comes from trials we end up closer to God with a love we cannot explain.

Lord God, heal Todd.

Mon, April 4, 2016 @ 9:12 PM

8. Russ Rommes wrote:

I need to bring you back to high school, the good old days of Spring Grove. I remember playing with and against you, although you were a few years younger than me. It was always a pleasure and with great admiration and respect. My prayers are with you and your family.

Thu, May 19, 2016 @ 6:11 PM

9. Julie (Holty) Simpson wrote:
Thank you for sharing your testimony Todd. Your words are a blessing. Praying for God's strength for you and your family.

Fri, May 20, 2016 @ 8:33 PM

10. Kris Olson wrote:
Todd, You are truely AMAZING! I hope you realize what an incredible legacy you are leaving for SO many to learn from and live by. I am certain that God will make the rest of your journey as pain free and easy as possible. He is with you!! Blessings to you and Terri and the boys.

Sat, May 21, 2016 @ 12:10 PM

11. Linda (Newgaard) Gomer wrote:
You are truly a hero and inspiration to all. May your spirituality bring you peace and healing. I will keep you and your family in my prayers.

Sat, May 21, 2016 @ 6:25 PM

12. Lynette (Anderson) Henderson wrote:
Todd, Remembering you as a hometown boy & family friend who went on to do well always put a smile on my face. And You have been in my thoughts & prayers since I heard of your story a few years ago, but reading of your faith & the inspiration you have been to others is the real story. You have touched so many and as a servant of God, a job well done!! God bless you & your family!

Sun, May 22, 2016 @ 3:52 PM

13. Matt Dolan wrote:
Todd, Terri and Family - You are truly a beautiful family. Your friendship and strength mean the world to me and my family! I am a better person because of you. Thank you. Matt.

Mon, May 23, 2016 @ 12:34 PM

14. Russell J Schwichtenberg wrote:
My accountant handed me your book two months ago and said to read it. Every so often she'd see me and ask "did you read it yet"? I said I'd get to it a couple too many times. Then Sunday evening I was moved to start reading it. A third to a half way through I emailed the accountant friend and said surprise-I am almost halfway through the book. Told her many tears and great book. She texts me back and said Todd entered home hospice and journey wasn't looking long. My first thought was where was my "spoiler alert" , I was at the part of back coaching but not making the UCLA weekend game ....I had no idea.

There is an intimacy us non associated friends develop while reading an autobiography book. I am finishing it tonight. Praying as I type. I believe every once in awhile, God uses tremendous people to go through things like this to teach and coach the rest of us in an example of "how to" go through it.

Thanks for the journaling while in a difficult time. I am learning more to "surrender and trust"..Lord,hear our Prayer

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15. Russell J Schwichtenberg wrote:
You can't make this stuff up! Continuing on from my above #14--I just learned this morning that my accountant friend that inspired me to read the book was a classmate and graduated with Todd and roommate a bit also. (Kim Sawle) you Spring Grovers are all over the place..

Tue, May 24, 2016 @ 11:38 AM

16. Dave Begley wrote:
Just watched the post-game press conference. I can see Todd was well loved by his players and fellow coaches.

Thu, May 26, 2016 @ 8:52 PM

17. Norman Ellingson wrote:
Todd, I have continued to follow your journey through your sister Darlene who took very good care of my mother. I have just been diagnosed with a very rare form of leukemia called T PLL and currently I'm not under treatment as there is no treatment for when I have other than a bone marrow transplant. I have gained Spirit from what you have gone through and I know it's going to help me in the future. God be with you and your family.

Thu, May 26, 2016 @ 9:09 PM

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