02/01/2012 - By Gayle Irwin
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Codi Sanchez is like most other 14-year-olds: she enjoys hanging out with friends, going to movies, and snowboarding. The ninth grader also participated on the Natrona County High School volleyball team this past year. However, Codi is unlike many teens as she battles a life-threatening disease called Familial Adenomatous Polyposis (FAP).
A hereditary disease, FAP is similar to colon cancer; however, it does not always become cancerous. Many people in her family have had the disease. However, she is the first young woman in her family in which the disease became cancerous. She experienced symptoms at age 12, and a year later, Codi underwent surgery in Denver in which doctors removed nearly 900 polyps from her large intestine. Codi was put in a medically-induced coma and her parents were told it would last several days. But, you can't keep an active girl down. According to her mother, Codi awoke less than 24 hours later and began walking. She was released in another day.
"We were shocked when the doctor told us we could go home," said mom Trisha.
And where did Codi want to go to after her release? Where most girls her age enjoy going: the mall! They walked around an outdoor mall for about an hour.
Codi recently traveled to Denver for radiation treatment and may return again in six months. She continues her vibrant life of snowboarding, school, dating, being with friends and helping her mother at the store the family owns, Tomcats Learning & Ralph's Books.
Codi also creates and sells jewelry, donating proceeds to the Wyoming Make A Wish (MAW) Foundation and to a breast cancer charity. One of her aunts was diagnosed with breast cancer within a few weeks of Codi's FAP diagnosis; she passed away last fall. Codi began making jewelry soon after her first hospital stay in order to occupy her mind and her hands.
"Mom said I needed a hobby," Codi recalled.
Wyoming MAW granted Codi's wish to visit Jamaica in 2010. Her biggest thrill was taking a zip line.
"I wasn't scared – it was fun!" she said.
"But," she admitted, "I didn't look down at all."
She also snorkeled, swam with dolphins, and spent time at the ship's arcade.
"They had a huge arcade place," Codi said. "I also really liked their food!"
Codi met another wish child on the cruise; he lives in Tennessee, and they still correspond on occasion.
After her trip, Codi decided she wanted to help other Wish children, and in 2011 she began selling the bracelets and necklaces she created. The year's profit was donated to a Wyoming Wish child during MAW's annual November fundraiser. Codi plans to continue her new tradition, donating money to the Wish Child whose wish is granted in December, the month Codi and her family took their trip.
Codi also enjoys creating art. She sees herself as either an art teacher or a kindergarten teacher.
"I really like kids, in fact, I love them!" she said. "And, I like art, especially creating art with kids."
Her enjoyment of children transcends to the store.
"Codi handles the young reader section," Trisha said. "She lets me know what's popular with teenagers, she places orders, and she waits on customers. She really is very good with customers. In fact, one day I received a call from a woman Codi had waited on, and she asked to talk the manager, 'the young one' – that made me really proud," said Trisha.
Despite the many challenges in her young life, Codi lives for the moment, savoring the friendships she has, enjoying the sports and arts in which she participates, and envisioning a future of helping others.
"I like working, I like reading, I like art, and I like helping," Codi said.
One of Casper's cool kids, from whom we can all learn some valuable life lessons.