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For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
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He knew he'd never make it to manhood
By STEPHANIE HAYES, Times Staff Writer
Published October 5, 2007
Cody Martin was 13 when doctors found cancer and amputated his right leg.
LUTZ - Cody Martin always got into the "chemo zone."
The room had to be dark. Completely quiet. With no one to distract him, he'd enter a cocoon.
After the cancer drugs had coursed through him, the 15-year-old would send family members to Wendy's to pick him up a double cheeseburger with pickles, ketchup and mustard, no onion. Or a spicy chicken sandwich, never mind the nausea.
Cody liked shoot 'em up computer games and heavy metal and Harry Potter.
He was a total boy - light on showers and toothpaste. He had a spiked bracelet, and a LiveStrong cancer bracelet. He loved to wear his dad's black ball cap with white skulls.
He was changing from a little boy into a man, knowing he'd never really get there.
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As a baby, Cody always slept through the night. At age 2, he opened the door for people. At 3, he was reading and at 4, using big words, said his father, Michael Martin, 41.
Cody was dry and sarcastic, and not everyone understood his jokes. When his grandmother stole his move in a game of dominoes, he said "Grandma, I don't think I love you anymore."
When he was 7, Cody's mother, Laura Mills, died in a car accident. She had a tattoo for her children - Cody and his sister Jessica's zodiac signs, balanced inside her own Libra scale.
When she died, Cody was strong, said his father. He seemed to mature a little faster. He got absorbed in fantasy and adventure books, reading an entire series by author Brian Jaques.
When he was a baby, his mom was the one who read to him.
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Cody was 13 when he twisted his ankle, and doctors discovered a golf ball-sized lump. They thought it was a cyst, but it was much worse. Cancer had intertwined through his right foot. The leg had to be amputated below the knee to stop the spread.
Cody took time alone with his foot. He had to say goodbye.
He had two prosthetic legs - one decorated with the logo of Independent, a skateboard clothing company, and the other with Ozzy Osbourne's picture.
He used crutches and a cane with a dragon head handle. As a freshman at Freedom High School, he always took the stairs, never the elevator, even when the limb pressed his skin and got sore.
He was cancer free until March. But it spread into his lungs. It was terminal. He never asked why, said Michael Martin, who compared his son to a Spartan warrior. Cody usually turned down morphine and pain pills, his dad said.
The teen's response to the cancer was the opposite of dramatic: "It is what it is."
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Cody decided that when he died, he wanted to come back as one of his pet pit bulls, C.C. or Roxy. That way, he could howl all day at his dad and sister.
His mood was up and down, like any teenager. He got frustrated when he lost motor skills and couldn't tap the computer keys or play the beloved Gibson guitar that his friends raised money to buy for him.
Along with his best friends, Jerry and Ben Funt, Cody played in a band called Monochrome. On Father's Day, they got their first paying gig, at the Brass Mug on Fletcher Avenue.
They played songs by Black Sabbath and Marilyn Manson. They made $160.
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Michael Martin promised to take his son and the band to see the Ozzfest concert tour, even before Cody's cancer returned.
But when reality hit, his family reached out to Sharon Osbourne's cancer foundation. Could Cody meet his idols when the tour stopped in West Palm Beach?
Weeks went by with no word. On the day of the concert, Michael Martin forgot something at home and had to turn back.
As he walked in the house, the phone rang. It was the Osbourne foundation. Would Cody and his friends still like to come backstage? The boys threw their hands up and screamed.
On Aug. 30, Cody spent the day backstage at Ozzfest. He brought his guitar to show Ozzy Osbourne, who held it up to his ear and said "your guitar is out of tune."
Cody stared out at the audience from the stage, just like a real rock star.
Survivors: father, Michael P. Martin; sister, Jessica and many relatives and friends. Holloway Funeral Home.
Services: Memorial 6 p.m. Saturday at Exciting Central Tampa Baptist Church, 2923 N Tampa St. Cody will be buried in Indiana.
Donations: Josua Michael Cody Martin Benevolent Account at Washington Mutual Bank: Routing number 267084131, account No. 3140068996. The family has also started a charitable foundation, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.