Monday, October 29, 2007

Z is for the Zest for life

This weekend I met someone really amazing. His name is Zachary DeRidder.
Zach competed in several triathalons, 5K Races and rode 100 miles on his bike this summer.
  • Do I find this amazing because these kind of athletic endeavors are uncommon? Yes.
  • Am I slightly in awe of that kind of athletic ambition? That's a given.
But when I tell you that Zach competed in these feats of strength and endurance all while undergoing treatment for cancer, you might sit back in awe yourself.
He is one of only ten people in this country with a rare form of liver cancer called fibro lamellar variant liver cancer.

It's started from a random email from a random stranger who thought Zach would be a good candidate for the chapter of I am trying to get together here in Rochester. I followed it up with an email to Zach, one that was never returned. Something in my gut told me there was something besides ordinary procrastination that led to my unanswered email. So I casually followed it up with an email to his friend, Michael.

Apparently Zach had other things to attend the fight of his life. I would have expected no more than a vague summary when I got an email back from Michael. Strangers don't really need to know the whole story, right? Certainly, I never expected Michael to invite me to go to the hospital to meet Zach. So that's just what I did.

Zach, his friend Michael and I chatted from chairs in the lobby of his hopsital floor. Through pain he's still smiling and he still has hope that he will be back on his bike.
He has called this floor home for more than a month. I watched him waved down a passing doctor and openly chat with her about the next steps in his treatment. He joked and pointed longingly at the candy bars in the vending machine. He's fighting with everything he has...and hasn't forgotten his passion or what he sees for himself beyond the walls of the hospital. His dreams are just beginning to take shape and ZHope, or, the foundation that his friends set up to honor him is just getting off the ground.

Talking to Zach, you get the idea that he sees this cancer as just a road block. With an attitude and a vision like his you'd never think he was facing incredible odds just in his own survival.
While talking to him about I2Y he got an incredible light in his eyes. He started talking about activities we should do in our chapter of I2Y when he is well.
Could we go camping as a know stuff like that? he asked.
He seemed amazed that other young adult cancer survivors were uniting in such a way. You see Zach hasn't had access to a computer for a while and hadn't heard there was an organization like this. As a matter of fact, months ago while he could have searched the internet for support for young adults with cancer, he was way too like a machine. He was too busy defying the odds. He still is. Tomorrow's plans are still there.

If you read this with purpose or intent... or even if you happened upon this by accident, pray for Zach and keep him in your thoughts. He is hoping to receive a liver's his shot at beating cancer.
Visit ZHope and learn about Zach.
Visit I2Y and learn why we are too young for this.

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