When Zachary was first diagnosed at age 17 in June 2005 we were devastated to learn that less than 2% of patients with this tumor survive. We are so proud of the courageous battle that Zach led as he faced over 2 years of continuous chemo, with barely a complaint. Although his tumor was responding to his newest chemo regimen, swelling in his brain required long term use of a very powerful steroid. Within 6 months of his new treatment, he weakened to the point of needing a walker or wheelchair. Still, he hardly complained.
There are many examples of Zach's amazing determination to face this illness with dignity and humor. He was playing practical jokes on friends and family days before he died. He was an upbeat hospital patient in his final weeks who touched the hearts of all the doctors, nurses and specialists who cared for him. He was optimistic throughout his illness, even while knowing his grim prognosis.
Seven months after his diagnosis, he was interviewed by The Landmark School's alumni magazine. In this interview, he described his attitude:
"I was scared. When I think about it, you can look at cancer, cry, and be depressed, or you can take it one day at a time and live for the next day. This disease has given me new guidelines and rules. After I found out I was sick, I look at life differently. It is special. I hate having cancer, but it actually impacted my life in a good way. It made my life better."
The last two months of his life brought almost complete paralysis, making it impossible for him to move his body, speak or even swallow. Yet he still maintained his sense of humor and his determination to live. He was an inspiration to all who met him. In the end, his paralysis led to a pulmonary embolism, and he died of respiratory failure at age 19.
We are devastated that he lost his battle, but we are dedicated, in his honor and memory, to finding a cure. Because these tumors are rare, affecting only 100-200 kids each year in the US, there is little government funding available. Your donations are crucial so that we can fund the research that will save children's lives. To see what we have accomplished so far, see Medical Breakthroughs.
Thank you for helping us in our quest to save children's lives.
19 years old
his final week
"That is how I will remember Zach; as a kindly spirit who was always trying to better the lives of others. He was a friend with wide arms when I was all alone; an open ear for my innermost thoughts and feelings; a loyal, wise companion who offered strong support and guidance; and perhaps most importantly, a fellow soul with whom I could while away the days of my youth. I am in deep awe and admiration at the fortitude of his spirit even in the most dire of times. His will to continue – becoming one of the longest surviving patients with his form of cancer – is nothing short of breathtaking. Even in his final days, he displayed a tenacity and resilience that is unmatched by anyone else I have ever met."
Excerpt from letter written by Zach's friend dated 7/01/09