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Tyler Cordova is positive to a tee

Cancer survivor will enjoy a day on the links at the 10th annual Hoefflin Foundation Golf Classic

Posted: June 20, 2009 9:01 p.m.
Updated: June 21, 2009 4:55 a.m.

Cordova, of Valencia, uses his natural swing to tee off at the driving range at TPC golf course. Cordova and his family have received support from the Michael Hoefflin Foundation for Children's Cancer. He was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma at the age of 4.

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The game of golf has its obstacle courses, but Tyler Cordova, 6, of Valencia, knows how to play his way through the course of life.

From bogies to birdies, Cordova delights in learning the terms and logistics of golf, but life is not just a putting green for the young Valencia resident, who was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma in 2007, at the age of 4.

After undergoing 10 surgeries, countless treatments and a most recent stint with chemotherapy, Cordova is battling the disease one round at a time, with a spirit that just won't quit.

"Tyler has always been a trooper," said Holly Cordova, Tyler's mother. "He has been through so much already, but always keeps going."

Cordova's mother and father, Derek Cordova, first recognized the signs of a problem when Tyler exhibited the symptoms of a common cold in 2007.

Upon further examination, it was revealed that Cordova had a large tumor in his chest cavity, which needed immediate treatment.

Administered through Kaiser Permanente, doctors were able to shrink the tumor. But in September 2008, Cordova relapsed.

The tumor had spread to the spinal fluid of Cordova's central nervous system, leading his family to try chemotherapy as the next step.

"I don't focus on the treatment," said Tyler Cordova, who has undergone bouts of extensive radiation since his September relapse. "I focus on what I like to do and that makes me feel better."

Since the discovery of Cordova's illness, rather than having to seek support, something supportive ended up finding the Cordovas.

The Michael Hoefflin Foundation for Children's Cancer is a nonprofit organization in the Santa Clarita Valley that was founded in 1994. The foundation's mission is to seek to defeat cancer one child at a time through providing financial, emotional and practical support to the children and families of the SCV and others.

The foundation found the Cordova family when they had taken Tyler to the hospital for initial treatment of the tumor.

"I couldn't believe what support and care came our way immediately. I will never forget it," said Holly Cordova. The foundation sent a care package to the hospital where Tyler was being treated. "I was so overwhelmed with what was going on with Tyler that I wasn't even wearing any shoes."

After the foundation received a record of Tyler being treated for cancer it immediately sent over a package to the family which arrived filled with gift certificates to the hospital cafeteria, games for Tyler to play and among other helpful items, a pair of sandals.

What the foundation gave to the Cordovas in their time of need, made an impression that would last a lifetime.

"The foundation really knows what people go through in times like this," said Holly Cordova.

The foundation is named after Michael Hoefflin, who was 10 when he lost his battle with recurrent brain cancer in 1996.

"This foundation feels like family to us now and they have been such a pillar of support in every way," said Holly Cordova.

Part of the foundation's support system is provided through the many events and activities it has in place for the young patients - most of whom don't get many opportunities to go outside, or play with other children their age.

"The foundation has so many great events," said Cordova's mother. "It's so nice that they have special things set up to make the kids feel special and get them excited."

The Cordovas know how important it is to keep their son in high spirits. By January of this year, Tyler was showing signs of improvement and was able to go out and eat his favorite meal of sushi, after almost two years of being on a restricted diet during treatment.

"When I was allowed to eat it again, we went to my favorite place and I ate them out of house and home," said Tyler, who went out for a raw-fish feast with his parents after given the consent of his doctors.

But in March, Cordova relapsed again. A stem-cell transplant scheduled next month will replace Cordova's immune system with a new one and the family feels positive about the upcoming procedure's possibilities. Tyler Cordova is the most positive of all.

"I'm glad that I'm getting the transplant and then my family and I can travel," said Tyler. The family hopes to visit Italy once Tyler is fully recovered.

Tyler enjoys the events that the foundation hosts, which include seasonal and themed parties and arcade gaming and miniature golfing at Mountasia.

"This was maybe what got me interested in golf," said Cordova, of remembering his day of fun at Mountasia with the other families and children invited by the foundation. "I learned that I like to swing a golf club and since then, I just wanted to know more and more."

Cordova will get to brush up on his golf skills when he joins the foundation in the Michael Hoefflin Foundation for Children's Cancer 10th annual Golf Classic to be held at the Tournament Player's Club in Valencia on June 28.

The Cordovas were invited to the tournament last year to enjoy a day on the greens and watch as community members and golfers alike played the course in support of the foundation's cause. Tyler's parents were also asked to speak to bring the cause closer to attendees of the event.

This year, the Cordovas are invited again and hopes are high it will be a day to remember.

"I can't wait!" said Tyler, who recently had a private golf lesson with professional golfer, Jason Gore, who heard about Tyler's enthusiasm for the sport.

"Everyone is very impressed with Tyler's knowledge of golf statistics and terms," said Derek Cordova. "It will be great for him to be there again and have a day around something he truly loves."

It will be a day for all to enjoy, as the foundation will offer a day of "Pay to Play" for those playing the tournament. A silent auction and live auction will also be held. All proceeds from the afternoon will benefit the children and families who receive support from the foundation, as well as the research conducted to fight against cancer in children.

"I am blessed to work with an organization like this one," said Jeffrey Shapiro, foundation executive director. "I strongly believe in our mission and the more people come together to support it, the closer we are to achieving our goal to fight cancer, one child at a time."

Anita Seibert has been the outreach program coordinator of the foundation for the past three years and works hands-on with the children and their families.

"I am in constant contact with our families and I see how much support they really need," said Seibert, who currently works with the 259 families supported by the foundation. "When people first learn that their child has cancer, their world is turned upside down with a devastating emotional blow. Our outreach program is designed to ease their burdens and provide support that is compassionate as well as practical."

Seibert said families affected by childhood cancer may suffer financial difficulties, marriage problems and other difficulties in the family unit due to emotions of fear and confusion.

"Each family is different, but the foundation is here to provide the individualized support needed by each family and meet special needs at no cost to them," said Seibert.

The organization is dependant on the support of local business leaders and community members in order to continue in their mission to fight children's cancer and help the individual and family needs that arise during the times of struggle, said Shapiro.

One sports fan is glad that the organization is diligent in its efforts to support his family.

"I like the Michael Hoefflin Foundation. They're really good people," said Tyler Cordova, who looks forward to many more years of playing golf in his spare time, when he isn't busy in his career as a pro-basketball star.

For information on the Michael Hoefflin Foundation, how to participate and/or attend the upcoming Golf Classic and how to donate to benefit children diagnosed with cancer and their families visit www.mhf.org.

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