Eleven-year-old Cody Kangiser won’t be coming “home” this summer.
Until a month ago, the quiet, sensitive youngster was looking forward to a dream vacation, starting with a week at Kamehameha Schools’ Explorations program. That gave him the rest of the summer to spend with his Kauai ohana.
Although he’s lived in Oregon for most of his young life, Cody’s heart has always been on Kauai, where his mom, Laurel “Naomi” Asai was born and raised. His grandparents, Lawrence “Blackie” Asai and Midge Kaneholani Asai still live here. So do most of his uncles, aunts, and cousins. He couldn’t wait to come and here and hang with the ohana.
But on June 2, Cody’s life changed dramatically. Severe headaches and blurred vision led to a brain scan that found two malignant germinoma tumors in his pituary and pineal glands. He was also diagnosed with diabetes.
The news was devastating to his mom and dad, Todd Kangiser, and it put all of Cody’s plans on hold indefinitely.
Within a few hours of the diagnosis, the youngster was rushed to Oregon Health Science University Doernbecker Children’s Hospital in Portland, Ore. There, neurologist Susan R. Durham, MD, surgically implanted a shunt in Cody’s brain, threading it from the top of his head to the back, down his neck across his collar bone, down his chest and ending near his navel.
The shunt will remain in his body for the rest of his life, helping to drain fluids that build up around his tumors.
Instead of swimming and fishing, Cody will be spending his summer undergoing intense chemotherapy and radiation.
A handsome 11-year-old, Cody stands 5’6″ tall, wears size 12 shoes and looks like he’s 14. Doctors explained that the pituitary gland tumor caused him to develop early puberty. But despite his accelerated growth, Cody’s mom says he is still a typical kid, who loves Yugi-oh cards, basketball and baseball.
In a letter to The Garden Island, Naomi Asai shared the news that her son has just finished the first of five cycles of chemotherapy he must undergo before radiation therapy begins. He spends five days in the hospital and 16 days at home if there are no complications. Because chemotherapy also makes him more susceptible to germs, they have had to sterilize half their home as a protected area for him.
The first four days of his first bout of chemotherapy were good, Naomi said, but then they were faced with the reality of what lies ahead.
“His nausea kicked in and he is now always tired. His eyes are sunken and his skin color is very pale,” she said.
Naomi said the whole experience is at times “overwhelming.” But she has been amazed at the way Cody has handled the things that have happened to him.
“He is so much stronger than me,” she said, “he puts up a good front I tell you. But he’s so worried about me. He tells me I just want to make sure you’re going to be happy and fine if I die tomorrow,'” he tells his mom.
“It breaks my heart to see my son basically wasting away right in front of my eyes. He shouldn’t be going through this, he should be having fun in Hawaii.”
For now, Cody’s doctors say traveling anywhere is definitely out of the question. But his mom has promised him that when he’s better, she will bring him to Hawaii to see his family.
On Kaua’i, Naomi’s family, “the Kaneholani Ohana’ is doing all it can to help defray Cody’s astronomical medical costs. They’ve had special sales and washed cars and are planning to have a booth at the upcoming Heiva Iorana o Kauai on July 18, 19, and 20 at Kukui Grove Park and Pavilion.
“I cannot say enough about my family back home and friends there wanting to help,” Naomi said emotionally in a phone call.
The family is also looking into having a benefit motorcycle “Poker Run” sometime in August.
Anyone who would like to help in some way can contact Yukie De Silva at 639-3739 or 823-0063. Emailed cards and messages can be sent to Cody at mailto:email@example.com. Cards and letters can also be mailed to Cody Kangiser, c/o P.O. Box 464, Anahola, HI. They will be forwarded to Cody and his family.
TGI Special Sections Editor Rita De Silva can be reached at 245-3681 Ext. 241 or mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org.