HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - In a Facebook message sent to family and friends, former Big Island mayor Billy Kenoi has revealed that he's in a battle for his life against a rare form of leukemia.
The 49-year old says he was first diagnosed with myelofibrosis in 2015, while serving his second term as mayor.
"I kept it to just my closest family members. I did not want it to distract from other things going on, and I did not want to burden anyone with the information," Kenoi wrote.
Kenoi completed his second term in December 2016, a month after a Big Island jury found him not guilty on all charges related to alleged misuse of a county-issued purchasing card.
In March 2017, Kenoi says, his disease began to accelerate, and he began getting blood transfusions at the emergency room in order to function. Months later, he began the process of undergoing a bone marrow transplant at the City of Hope Cancer Treatment Center in Duarte, California.
The process included chemotherapy, a month of hospitalization, and three months of rehab. He says he returned home to Hawaii Island last October and began feeling better over the next couple of months.
"My hair began to grow back, and I could walk and play without fatigue. I began coaching varsity soccer at KS (Kamehameha School) (with) my son Justin. I was stoked to be coaching and teaching again," Kenoi wrote.
But Kenoi says he began feeling lethargic again about a week ago. He flew back to City of Hope on March 28 for what was supposed to be a quick scheduled checkup.
Instead, his doctor told him his cancer had mutated and become more aggressive.
"He said if I jumped on the plane back to Hawaii that I would not live more than a month," wrote Kenoi. "The disease was back and it was aggressive."
Kenoi says he is again undergoing aggressive chemotherapy at City of Hope, but that he plans on making it to his 50th birthday in November.
Friends say they were heartbroken to hear the news, even though they know Billy is a fighter.
"I know in my heart that he has so much more to share with us and we have so much more to learn from him. Now is his time to heal and our time to be the warriors for him," said Valerie Poindexter, Hawaii County Council Chairwoman.