POLAND, Ohio – To see six year old Andrew Codner now is to see a typical, energetic first grader. But his journey here has been, in his words, “rough!”
In May of 2020, Tristan Codner, Andrew’s mom, said they noticed he was not feeling well. At first he had puffy eyes and then pain and tiredness.
Ultimately, he was diagnosed with leukemia and started undergoing treatments at Akron Children’s Hospital.
“The troops on like the first day, the battle raged on, the white blood cells attacked and then it keeps going and it keeps going every day,” said Andrew, describing the battle that was being waged within his young body.
“He’s a very adaptable kid and just rolled with the punches but then he started feeling crummy with all of the medications he had to start and that was really a difficult transition for all of us,” said Tristan. “The treatment for his type of leukemia is about a two and a half year process and so its just a long haul of appointments and tests and different kinds of chemo with different kinds of side effects,” she added.
Along the way, his mother says their family went into “survival mode” supported by friends and family.
“Akron Children’s does such a great job with, you know, bringing in fun pajamas and toys and just keeping these kids minds off of the scariness of being in the hospital.” said Tristan. “His kindergarten teacher going to the family home to share lessons he was missing at school.”
“He never wanted to talk about how hard anything was even though the kids would, we would try to tell the other kids he’s not sick, where he’s going to make you sick, never wanted to be singled out, he didn’t even want the praise. I mean he never wanted to be different than anybody else,” said Maggie Schuster.
His family is also using the Akron Marathon to raise awareness for childhood cancer and money to help the hospital and with research. All the while, Andrew was working toward finishing his own personal marathon.
“The more died the better it got, the more leukemia cells died,” said Andrew.
On September 16, at Akron Children’s Hospital, Andrew was finally able to ring the bell, symbolizing the end to his treatment.
“We know that as exciting as it is there are so many fears that it’s not completely over, but we hope that it is and we just want to bring awareness to pediatric cancer research and so much need for better options for these kids,” said Tristan.
The following Monday, Andrew was welcomed back to school, the halls lined with students teachers and administrators cheering his arrival.
“It’s so exciting for just that part of our story, I think, just to feel that community support and the happiness of these kids just to see one of their classmates being with them again,” said Tristan.
“He’s got the whole package. He really does. He’s compassionate, he’s empathetic. He feels feelings I think because he’s had so many of his own and so many people have asked him to describe those feelings that he sees them in other people too,” said Schuster.