First-rate Little League fan winning fight with lymphoma


POSTED: Sunday, May 17, 2009

Six-year-old Paliku Winchester has steadily gained ground in his battle against lymphoma since August when he cheered on his older brother and other members of the Waipio Little League Team to a world championship.





        Those interested in making a donation to help the Winchester family with Paliku's medical expenses can send a check made out to “;Friends of Paliku”; to any Bank of Hawaii branch. Checks also can be sent to Rena and Kanoe Winchester at P.O. Box 701366, Kapolei 96709.



The victory lifted Paliku's spirits.

Paliku lost the 15 pounds he gained last year from the steroids relating to his chemotherapy. His hair also grew back.

“;In pediatric lymphoma, the outlook is generally favorable,”; said Dr. Randy Wada, associate professor of the Cancer Research Center of Hawaii. “;You're able to see the real child re-appear over a period of time,”; he added. “;That's always a good feeling.”;

On a recent sunny afternoon, Paliku wrestled with his younger brother, Waipehe, on their manicured lawn. “;Sometimes I forget that he's sick,”; said mother Rena Winchester of Paliku, who is battling stage II pre-B cell lymphoma.

His energy and appearance is healthy as any other boy his age, she said.

Paliku was diagnosed with pre-B cell lymphoma soon after his 5th birthday in February 2008. A lump found behind Paliku's left ear was determined to be cancerous. Doctors also found the cancer had spread to his neck and left armpit. He started chemotherapy soon after his diagnosis which caused him to become lethargic, gain 15 pounds and lose his hair. He often wore a baseball cap to cover his head.

In August, Paliku joined his family to watch his older brother, Pikai and the rest of the Waipio Little League team play in San Bernadino, Calif., but fell ill after he suffered severe dehydration caused by his treatment. After a night at Loma Linda University Children's Hospital, Paliku returned home where his grandparents cared for him.

The team members and coaches shaved their heads in support of Paliku. In Williamsport, Pa., family members, friends and fans chanted Paliku's name, rallying the team to come from behind to win the U.S. finals against Louisiana.

The Waipio team won the Little League World Series title by beating Mexico 12-3.

Paliku has a year-and-a-half more of chemotherapy. He undergoes treatments once every other week at Kapiolani Medical Center for Women and Children. Paliku's older brother said his younger brother continues to inspire him, especially the inner strength Paliku maintains when he endures numerous shots from his doctor.

Through the Make-A-Wish Foundation, Paliku and his family will travel to California next month to head to Sea World. Paliku said he chose that place because of he likes killer whales. During their trip, they also plan to go to the San Diego Zoo. He hopes they'll be able to venture to more amusement parks. As he sat on his mother's lap in their home, Paliku asked, “;Mom, can we go to Disneyland too?”;

One of Paliku's highlights of their upcoming California trip are plans to watch the Philadelphia Phillies and Maui-born Shane Victorino play the San Diego Padres. This will be the first Major League Baseball game for him and his family.

Paliku will return to Holy Family Catholic Academy in the fall as a first-grader. His younger brother, Waipehe, 3, will also attend the school as a preschooler while their older brother, Pikai, 13, will attend Iolani School, their parents' alma mater, as a seventh-grader.

Most of all, Paliku looks forward to playing baseball again. His parents plan to sign him up for baseball this summer.

Their mother thanked Hawaii residents for their overwhelming support. “;I can't explain in words what they've done for our son,”; Rena Winchester said.