Alison Damast | January 23, 2015
At first glance, Takashi Yanagi didn’t seem all that different from all the other high school students at Valley High School in West Des Moines, Iowa. A model student, he attended classes, took piano lessons and volunteered at the local hospital.
Unbeknownst to his fellow students and teachers, his home life was in shambles. His mother, Emi Yanagi, who was raising her son alone, had been diagnosed with late-stage ovarian cancer midway through his junior year of high school. As her condition worsened, he became her sole caretaker, assuming all the household responsibilities she had previously handled, from shopping for groceries to paying the bills. It was several months before his teachers and guidance counselor learned of his predicament.