This Article is About
hero
hodgkin s lymphoma
high school teacher
local theatre
coughing up blood
first job
new job
Do You Know A Hero?
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Do You Know A Hero?

Imagine being told you have Stage IV cancer and you are only 25 years old. Imagine it is the end of the summer you’re preparing for your first day on the job as a new high school teacher and you have just been told that you will be starting chemotherapy during that first week of teaching. What would you do in that situation? This is the story of how my younger brother Zach took on his new job, and his new diagnosis together and how he became my hero.

When Zach was very young he aspired to be an actor. He wanted to live in Hollywood. He wanted to make people laugh. He loved being in front of an audience. Loved the microphone and the camera. What a ham! Mom used to call him “Sunshine Boy” a perfect description of who he was. Zach was a natural.

Zach graduated from college and played some local theatre. He decided rather quickly however, that he could have a significant impact on the lives of kids by using his acting skills in the classroom. At the end of the summer of 1997 as Zach prepared for his first job as a high school teacher he simultaneously learned that he was very sick. He had suddenly started coughing up blood so much so that it frightened him and he went to a hospital. Zach had Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. He was told the prognosis was not good and that he needed to start treatment immediately. It was at this moment that Zach decided what kind of man he wanted to be. He made the decision to keep teaching. He wanted the kids to learn right along with him about cancer. He told the hospital his treatment days must be Friday because he could not miss any work. He would use the weekend to rest and recover. He had kids to teach. Kids depending on him. Many weeks of chemotherapy and radiation followed. Zach lost his hair. He lost weight. His looks changed and his face became swollen from medications. He felt so weak. However, “his kids” were with him and together they laughed and learned throughout his treatment. Amazingly he did not miss a day of teaching.

Needless to say special bonds began to develop. Ties to his students for sure. The new unexpected relationships that developed were at the Dana Farber Cancer Center in Boston.

Zach had lots of best friends now. Nurses, doctors, and other cancer patients. During Zach’s treatment he learned about The Jimmy Fund. Fundraising is the Jimmy Fund’s mission. Zach decided the year following his treatments that he would start his fundraising campaign for raising money for cancer research. His treatments saved his life, but they were very difficult to endure. Many of the patients/friends he met did not survive. We need better treatments. Zach decided to ask some of his family to walk with him and join the walkers of the annual Jimmy Fund Walk. A 26.2 mile walk along the route of the famous Boston Marathon. Imagine no training - just finished months and months of cancer treatments and now he wants to walk 26.2 miles!

Well Zach was unable to complete that first walk, but every year since then he has walked and finished. Each years Zach became more organized about his fundraising. He named his team Zach's Pack. He asked more friends and relatives to walk with him. He set his goal for funds raised higher and higher each year; $5,000, $10,000, $15,000, $20,000, $30,000. He wrote letters to famous people, he wrote letters to everyone he knew. Articles were written about him, Boston Red Sox radio - WEEI - now invites him to talk to the viewers about his cancer experience and why it was important to raise money for research. The Jimmy Fund asks Zach to speak at their fundraising events now. Zach has raised over $450,000! for cancer research in 12 years.

Most importantly, Zach has inspired many, many of his students. His team of 40+ walkers is now made up mostly of his students. Family and friends try to keep up, but the kids carry his torch. His team has the opportunity to meet each year the kids they “walk” for. Kids who have cancer and are fighting. The kids they meet do not all survive. The lessons are profound.

Everyone who knows Zach learns from him. We are all inspired by his tireless spirit. He named the day he heard he was cancer free his “YAHOO day”! Zach celebrates Yahoo day every year on February 26th. He is fourteen years free of cancer and he is my hero!


Street Talk

Wow what an inspiring story, living with a wife who has had 3 differing cancers, gives me an insight as to what others feel. My wife linda inspires by visiting and supporting those who are going through chemo etc, but your brothers story is inspiring. I am going to add your story as link on one of mine on another site where I wrote about my wife. The more these inspiring stories are spread the better. I have found that until you have a friend or family member with this dreaded disease, one does not really understand what the sufferer is going through. with Linda's cancer some of her friends actually avoided her, and actually told us that, they had no idea of what to say to her. I read your Bio and from that alone you have become my hero, please keep at it, one of the truly bless you are!!!

Reply
  about 1 decade ago
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