BUXTON — Cody Buzzell was a typical 9-year-old boy, who liked playing video games, watching movies, and playing with Legos and Army figurines.

At the same time, he was fighting an extraordinary battle with cancer.

Cody, a third-grader at Buxton Center Elementary School, died Saturday.

Donald Gnecco, the school principal, said Monday that Cody was a happy and easygoing kid who was well-liked by his peers.

“He always had a smile for everyone,” Gnecco said. “He was a happy child. This is a sad time for all of us here. We are all going to miss him.”

Teachers at the school told students early Monday that Cody had died. Two counselors were at the school to provide support to Cody’s classmates and friends. School officials sent a letter to parents on Monday that offered guidance for supporting their children.

“For anyone who works with kids, this is the kind of announcement no one wants to hear,” Gnecco said.

Cody, the son of Ernesto Nieves Jr. of Sebago and Jessica Buzzell of Buxton, got sick in the fall of 2009. His mother said Cody was vomiting regularly and sensitive to certain smells and sunlight. She said doctors couldn’t figure out what was wrong with him.

Buzzell then took Cody to a systemic specialist, who did a CAT scan and discovered a brain tumor.

“It was awful to hear,” his mother said Monday. “I knew something was wrong with him. I wanted an answer, but I didn’t expect to hear that.”

Soon after, Cody had surgery to remove the tumor. He spent the next three months in the intensive care unit at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston.

Complications from the surgery paralyzed him on his right side. He learned to walk again with intensive physical therapy. He also had radiation treatment and an experimental chemotherapy. Buzzell said Cody’s tumor was shrinking, but the treatment eventually stopped working.

“It was such a rapid cancer,” his mother said. “He was amazing through all of this. He kept his sense of humor and did everything that was expected of him. He was a fighter, that’s for sure.”

Throughout his illness, Cody received overwhelming support from the school and Buxton residents, who held fundraisers to help ease the financial impact on his family.

In October, Cody was granted a wish through the Make-a-Wish Foundation and went to Legoland in California. A highlight of his trip was visiting the USS Midway Museum in San Diego.

“Cody always said he wanted to be in the Army when he grew up,” his mother said. “It’s real, but it doesn’t feel real.”


Staff Writer Melanie Creamer can be contacted at 791-6361 or at: [email protected]