Zach the Fighter

This piece is by far the most personal piece I will ever write. It is about someone who will always be with me, even if he is not physically on this Earth. He continues to inspire me everyday- and I hope he inspires you too.

 

This is the story of my best friend, Zachary.

I’ve known Zach my whole life. We’ve been friends since we were babies. In second grade, my mom sat me and my sister down. She said that she had news to share–and that it was sad news. Zach had been diagnosed with neuroblastoma- a rare form of pediatric cancer. My mom explained to me that the town would come together to do everything we could for him. And boy, did we rally.

 

Zach was everything to me. Not only was he my best friend, he was also truly a hero.His strength and resilience amazed me. Here he was, an elementary school kid, fighting the biggest battle someone could face. He never gave up. He went through everything with a smile on his face.

 

I asked his mom for permission to write this article. Her response:”keeping his memory alive is so wonderful.” 

 

My favorite memories with Zach

He was Mr. Creative, and his favorite past time when we were young was making braided bracelets. I still have the one he made me in 3rd grade! I have a vivid memory of him at my house making it in our office. He tied it around my wrist, and I wore the bracelet  for years until I outgrew it.

 

Zach also loved animals and marine life–his room was his own little aquarium and animal sanctuary. Fish tanks upon fish tanks, every little pet you could think of:from small reptiles to sweet furry hamsters. I remember being in his room when we were in fourth grade watching Bridge to Terabithia. His mom poked her head in, handing us snacks–grapes and Doritos to be specific. I was holding one of his gerbils (I think he had just gotten her) and I always loved how passionate he was when he would tell me about his animals. It is the simple times like these that I hold onto forever.

 

Zach was in remission during our early middle school years. He was a living miracle. In seventh grade, I received news that he was sick again. I was devastated–not only did I have to watch my best friend go through this again, I also had just found out that my dad got a new job, and we were moving 8 long hours away. I wasn’t able to see Zach before we moved because he needed to isolate. It was hard, but we made the best of it.

 

I received two packages in the mail from Zach after moving. I still have his letters that he mailed to me too. Those two packages were a beautiful necklace and bracelet. One had a note enclosed saying: “I hope you haven’t met any guy friends at your new school.” We always shared a “puppy love” for one another. Those are times I also cherish, too–the giggles and butterflies that come with having a childhood crush.

 

The move was difficult on our friendship, and on top of that, his cancer was back and becoming more aggressive. Although we were distant, we visited the summer before our junior year of high school. What I always loved about seeing Zach was that we could pick up where we left off, even if we were talking sporadically. That summer was the last time I saw Zach. But, it was a beautiful visit and I’m thankful for the memory. It was me, him, and another close friend of ours,whom I hold onto tightly now. We are forever bonded through Zach. 

 

The last text I received from Zach, about a month before he passed, was “happy turkey day.” It was the most Zach way to wish me Happy Thanksgiving. e never was too formal; always a little bit silly.

 

When my mom shared with me that Zach had passed, I felt as if my world was crashing in on me. My worst nightmare and biggest fear had come true. It felt as if I would never be able to accept it. It still is hard, but I know he is no longer suffering, which brings me comfort. I also know that he is with me in every journey I take. When he passed, I was waiting to hear if I got accepted into RIT. I sent a wish to Zach everyday, hoping I would get in. When I was accepted, I quietly said a thank you. Maybe it was just sheer luck, but I like to think he had something to do with it. I like to think he is with me in more ways than I realize. 

 

I have a wonderful relationship with Zach’s amazing mama. I will forever be close with her–she is my piece of Zach. She always tells me to look for the signs, and always reminds me of the love he had for me. She has been as much of an inspiration to me as Zach is–the strongest woman I know.

 

Thank you for reading this article. Like I mentioned in the beginning, it is the most personal one I’ve written. Zach the Fighter and Mama Becky- I love you both with my whole heart, and always will.

 

To help families with pediatric cancer, please consider contributing to the Jules of Life foundation-  https://www.facebook.com/Jules-of-Life-Foundation-291171733780/about/?ref=page_internal 

This foundation has done so many amazing things for Zach’s family and many others. They are among the countless unsung heroes aiding in the fight against cancer.