Today’s hero is Zach Ellingson. Zach was born in 2002 and was as normal as any other child is growing up. Mom and Dad (Jen and Steve) were enjoying watching him grow, and during Zach’s spring break life changed dramatically for the then eight-year-old.
The date is ingrained into the memory of Zach, his family, and anyone close to them, 18APR10. That is the date that life took a dramatic U-turn for Zach. It was a Sunday, and Zach had turned eight years old just 11 days earlier. He was enjoying the first weekend of spring break when all hell broke lose. Zach was diagnosed with T-cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. That’s one heck of a birthday present.
After the diagnosis, Zach was admitted to Golisano Children’s Hospital where he stayed nine days in the PICU. After that he began outpatient therapy at the Children’s Cancer Center at SUNY Upstate Medical Center in Syracuse. His scheduled treatment called for: radiation, chemo, and many inpatients stays over the next three and a half years.
Over the next three and half years, Zach endured more than your average grade school kid. Most kids were doing homework, but Zach, he had other things to do, like fight for his life. And so the battle began. There was chemo and radiation. Many long and boring hospital stays. Also, daily visits to the clinic, trips at midnight to the emergency room because of spiked temperatures. All the anesthesia, the three years and four months with a port in his chest. Countless needle pokes so that they could draw his blood. Also, the years of taking different drugs, to counteract the steroids, neuropathy, constipation and nausea. But through it all, Zach remained strong and pulled through. On 10AUG13, Zach finished treatment, but still continues to be seen at Upstate as a pediatric oncology patient.
Zach is doing well, and if you asked him about the whole cancer thing, he would tell you the worst part was, losing his physical strength and conditioning. Hundreds of days of school and childhood missed, and the confidence in his body and athletic ability, and also the damage to his short term memory. But he gained a lot as well. An empathy for those who experience pain and suffering, plus the knowledge that things don’t always go your way, and there is a way to come back from losses and defeats. Sounds like Zach is wise beyond his years, just as we see with other children that have suffered from cancer. It’s something that not your average human can comprehend or survive, it takes someone strong, someone like Zach strong.
Today 15JUN15 I ride for Zach. To honor his name, his fight, and his strength. Zach is a hero and a survivor. He was put to the test, the test to live his life. He passed that test. And today I am honored to ride in your name, Zach. May your day be blessed and keep living the life you want to live. Godspeed Ken.
To learn more about Zach’s battle go to: http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/zachellingson
If you would like your child to be Ken’s hero/ angel of the day, send him an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and share the story of how cancer happened.