Darren Doyle, story and photos
If you've stopped by the Main Street Barber Shop in Brownsville within the last seven months, you've found the door locked, the lights off, and no indication of when the shop will be reopened. Owner Odis Allen of Brownsville closed the shop on March 1, 2016 after finding out he had been diagnosed with cancer, more specifically, Large B-Cell Non-Hodgekins Lymphoma.
"I'd had an ongoing back problem for years," said Allen, from his chair in the barber shop. "I got up off the couch on New Year's Day of 2016 and had a terrible pain in my left-lower back that radiated down into my hip. It wouldn't go away so I went to my neurosurgeon, got it checked out and through an MRI, found out it was cancer."
Allen said he got the call while in-between customers at his shop in late February.
"It crushed me. That was a horrible weekend," Allen said. "I met with my children, my wife. My options were to go through a four-treatment chemotherapy program or I would have 6 to 12 months to live."
Allen's cancer was not in tissue, but in his bones, including his spine, clavicles, pelvis, and skull. The medical process originally began in Bowling Green but he said he and his family were not happy with where that seemed to be headed so they turned to Dr. Don Stevens at Norton's Hospital in Louisville.
Allen's treatment plan became finalized with the decision to undergo six of the aggressive treatments. Each one would require a minimum of one week in the hospital. It only took four of the six scheduled treatments to rid Allen's body of the cancer but his medical team advised him to proceed with the last two.
The fifth one almost killed him. Allen said he got an infection after the fifth treatment which sent his body into septic shock on the July 4th weekend. His organs began shutting down and his time quickly began to run out.
"It was almost the beginning of the end for me," he said. "They sent me to Norton's Women and Children Center, and I'm telling you what, I've never seen such care in a hospital in all of my life. I had an entire team of five people in my room every morning, telling me this and that."
Odis said he stared death in the eye, and while he said he hated the thought of leaving his family behind, he was not afraid.
"I have no doubt in my mind that the Lord answered the prayers of my brethren in this county. Other places, too. I was at that point."
Allen became emotional as he wiped his eye. "I was at the Jordan River, and it was calm and peaceful. I could've just crossed over, but I didn't."
Allen said throughout the process he tried to keep a positive outlook on things and his family and friends never failed to give him the support he needed. However, he said he looked at things realistically and tried to prepare for the worst in case this was his time.
"My greatest fear in all of this was for my family because they are my rock, but I had faith to know that I'd be a winner either way."
He said there were times where he was too weak to do anything. He couldn't move, couldn't eat, and said at times, couldn't even function as a human.
"I just trusted in the Lord," he said. "I'd see people out from time to time when I was able to get out and they'd say things like, 'I've been praying for you' or 'our church is praying for you.' I didn't know these people."
He said those are the main reasons he moved his family from Fort Lauderdale, FL to Edmonson County 24 years ago, a decision that he says was the best one he ever made.
"I lived in Broward County, Florida, where there were 3 million people. All those people and I didn't know anyone. All the houses were on quarter-acre lots. You didn't know your neighbor and didn't want to. Three million people and you're all alone. I move to Edmonson County where there's 12,000 or so people and I've got people praying for me, entire churches praying for me that I don't even know. It's absolutely amazing."
He was released from the hospital in late July and was cancer-free, however; his troubles weren't over. He said he then suffered from PTSD, or post-traumatic stress disorder.
"I just couldn't do anything. I was so weak. I went through a series of depression and boredom. The worst times were at night when I'd think of the whole process. My mind would race and there would be all this anxiety."
He said his wife had arranged for him to see a therapist but instead, he received a different type of therapy.
"After a few weeks, I went to church at Cedar Springs (United Baptist) and the Lord blessed me. I went to church at Pleasant Union and the Lord blessed me there. He just kept blessing me, over and over, and all that anxiety and trouble left. Debbie (his wife) asked me if I was going to see the therapist and I told her I didn't need to see one anymore."
He also drives a school bus for the Edmonson County school system, a position to which he's already returned.
"I was in danger on losing my insurance if I didn't go back to driving the bus. Lannie, (Deweese, Director of Transportation) my fellow bus drivers, and other school board employees treated me so well," he said.
Allen had used up all his sick and personal time as a bus driver but he said his school board friends began to transfer their own time to him in order for Allen to have the proper amount of time off work without losing his benefits.
"A mechanic gave me an entire week of his, which translated into two weeks for me." (bus drivers days are 4hrs) "And I just recently received a very generous gift from a teacher's aid at Kyrock. She gave me 53 days."
After the ups and downs of the entire process, Allen said he's learned many things, but one very valuable lesson.
"I've come to learn what true charity is and how precious the prayers of my brethren are."
Need a haircut? Here's more good news: Allen will be reopening the Main Street Barber Shop on Monday, October 10, 2016 at 8AM. When asked if the Main Street Center would be able to handle all the parking and the long line to get in, he laughed as he jokingly replied, "I don't know about that, but that would be nice."
It's easy to say very few people here or anywhere haven't been affected by cancer in some form or fashion. Allen said he never thought it would be him, but it was, for whatever reason.
In the hour it took to have this interview, three different people saw the lights on and came inside. All asking, "Are you back to work?" He turned them down but assured them he'd be back for good shortly.
"I certainly don't wish that on anyone. Boy, it's been something. But you know, the Lord took care of me. It'll be good to be back. I know I keep saying the word 'amazing,' but that's what this is. It's all amazing."
9/23/2016 05:15:47 pm
I know the feeling about cancer. I went through prostate cancer surgery in December 2014 and now am finishing up my 4th round of chemo for multiple myeloma (blood cancer). God is good, all the time. His mighty power is healing me along with the great medical staff at the TN Oncology Center in Murfreesboro. Although there is no complete cure at this time, we will be in remission and going for a bone marrow transplant appointment next week. All of the prayers from our church along with others praying really makes a difference. Being positive has been a big help along the way. My wife has been a true supporter in this medical issue.
9/23/2016 05:21:52 pm
This story is such a blessing! I don't know Mr. Allen, but I'm glad to live in a county where people aren't afraid to give thanks to God! I'm also glad we have a news company that's not afraid to print it! What an inspiration.
9/23/2016 05:40:22 pm
Clayton, Mackenzie, Marshall and I all love you and your family very much. We are so thankful for this good news, and we certainly have missed you giving Clayton and Marshalll haircuts. We've been praying for you and your family and we are so happy that you are recovering now. We definitely will be seeing you at your shop soon.
9/23/2016 05:41:54 pm
This is such an uplifting and wonderful story. Cancer has taken my husband, Jim. He has been gone 16 years and I know prayer and love from everyone helped me have him a year and half longer than expected. I'm glad they have come so far in the treatments but I also know how it is when you get that diagnosis. I am glad you have come back so strong and pray that you have a long full life.
9/23/2016 05:45:49 pm
We Love Odis. God has more in store for you brother. Such an inspiration!
9/23/2016 05:58:14 pm
Odis is one of the Best People you Could Meet Praise the Good Lord For Healing Him!!!
9/23/2016 06:27:20 pm
So happy that you are able to return this soon, and Gauge will be more than happy. When he says his prayers before bed he always includes you in them. God is good. We take life for granted but...cancer has doesn't care who it attacks.
9/23/2016 06:37:24 pm
Junior and I thank God for Odis and Debbie. We feel blessed to know that Jill married into such a good family. We are so very thankful that he was spared to be papa to Macy and Maddie. We love you!
9/23/2016 07:30:03 pm
God is So Precious , He was with you through it all ! I'm so happy for you , I just called Dad ( Harold Cox ) to relay the good news, he was worried about you and didnt want another barber cutting his hair ! The same with my Son ( Larry Miller ) He credits God for your healing as we all do and is looking forward to seeing you ! God Bless you and your family ! Let's cut some hair !
9/23/2016 07:49:14 pm
Thankful for my cousin Odie and the closeness we have shared. It is a blessing for God to hear and answer prayers. Our prayer is that Odie will be blessed with many more years.
9/23/2016 08:44:22 pm
God is so good.
9/23/2016 08:45:22 pm
So happy to see Odie doing what he loves to do. He is a special man that has great faith in God. His strength was a amazing, He never questioned why it happen to him. He was also blessed to have a great family to heip him throught his sickness. I know we are cousins, but you have been a good friend. Love you and Debbie.
9/23/2016 09:30:42 pm
So thankful to tell you this is my brother, Odie. I am grateful to you all for the prayers that went up to the heavens.
Barbra Scott Priddy
9/23/2016 10:16:36 pm
Love a story with an ending like this...this is my Brother in Christ and we love him and his wife...God is still working Miracles every day but sometimes we forget to praise him for them...Odie is a miracle that I see, and our church prayed for and God answered...love you Odie & Debbie...
Paula Casey Eldridge
9/23/2016 11:06:45 pm
I'm so glad to hear the good news Odie we had some good times when we were little hope to see you real soon love you cuz.
9/24/2016 08:18:12 am
What a blessing to read this and see how far Odie has come since this ordeal began! I'm thankful God has heard our prayers and given him more time with us-his family and friends. Odie is my cousin and has been one of my favorite people since I was a little girl. Love you lots!
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