Codey Pulver was 10 when he started getting headaches.
That was the year 2008, and over and over again, doctors told his family it was a sinus infection, but antibiotics weren't cutting it. Finally, one doctor sent the Fort Edward boy for an MRI.
Scott Pulver, Codey's brother, remembers the day well. Then 13, he traveled down to Malta with his brother and family for the scan, then spent the day out, shopping and enjoying time together. It was a good day, he recalls.
When they got home, the phone rang. Doctors found something, and they told the family to take Codey to Albany Medical Center immediately.
"That's the only time I'd seen my dad cry, was at that moment," Scott said.
Codey had a brain tumor, and it was cancerous. Seven surgeries, three rounds of chemo and six weeks of radiation later, it was gone, and Codey was living his life like any other young boy in upstate New York, riding his bike, hanging with friends and falling in love with photography, inspired by landscape photographer Ansel Adams.
He graduated from Hudson Falls High School in 2016 and got accepted to SUNY Canton to study graphic design and photography. He joined the school's EMS squad as a first responder, helping fellow students on campus through different medical complications. It made him feel good, he said, to help people.
But later in the year, he started to feel a pain in his neck. Doctors said it was from sitting at his computer, but then the pain turned to numbness that creeped down his left side. He'd have to lean against a wall and walk his hand up it to lift his left arm.
The cancer was back.
Another surgery removed the tumor, and once again things seemed to go back to normal. But they weren't. Codey started to feel the numbness coming back, and a CT scan in December 2017 showed a small cancerous tumor at the top of his spine.
"I had just had an MRI in the prior July, and they said no more MRIs. Anything that would happen would have happened by now," Codey said. "So it was just kind of a punch in the throat to have that suddenly develop in six months."
Now 20, Codey goes to Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston every three weeks for a clinical trial treatment called Keytruda. The travel is grueling and expensive, and to help cover costs, his family and friends are holding a fundraiser for the Pulvers from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday, June 9 at the American Legion in Greenwich.
The fundraiser will sell raffle tickets for a hot air balloon ride for two from SunKiss Ballooning, two NASCAR Loudon weekend tickets and four Great Escape season pass vouchers. There will also be a basket raffle, auction, 50/50 raffle, Tarot card reading and face painting station at the event.
While on summer break now, Codey and his parents' schedule has been a whirlwind. Every three weeks on Thursday, Tom and Camey Pulver leave their jobs to drive the three hours to SUNY Canton from Fort Edward. They pick up their son and drive about six hours to a relative's in New Hampshire, where they stay the night. Friday, they drive an hour to Boston for the 30- to 45-minute treatment.
People can also make donations, all of which will go toward the Codey Pulver Fund. Scott said the money will help with the cost of travel and co-pays for appointments.
Keytruda is a kind of immunotherapy treatment that involves infusions to shrink tumors over time. It's not widely available yet, as it's fairly new to the medical scene. Codey is part of a special clinical trial for treating his tumor. He said he hasn't had any side effects from the infusions, and they're much easier than chemotherapy and radiation.
It also appears to be working. After three treatments, Codey's tumor has stabilized, something that doctors thought would take at least five or six rounds. Still, he has a long way to go. The treatment period is two years, Codey said, 17 per year, 34 total.
"Just being 10 years older now, it's just, it's not as big of an impact on me," he said. "Now being on my third tumor, it's just like, 'OK, I'm done with this. I'll do whatever the hell I've got to do to never do this again.' "
He hopes others who may be going through something similar will adopt the same attitude.
"Just stay positive," he said. "Always think of the times where you were having so much fun, and just keep that thought going around in your head to make you smile. If you don't make yourself smile even in the worst times, you'll want to give up, and you just, you can't. You've got to stay going for you and your family, just everyone in your life."