It is hard to believe it has been a year since Zach was diagnosed with cancer. In some ways, it seems like it was just yesterday, and in so many other ways, it seems like it has been a lifetime. On September 23, 2014, we began this journey with Zach. On September 27, 2014, Zach became cancer free when he had surgery to remove his left eye. It was the hardest week of our lives, but it was a week where we were reminded how great our God is.
In a year, we have gone from being scared we would lose Zach to cancer to finding out that he would not need chemotherapy or any other forms of treatment after he had his surgery. We found out after many months of genetic testing that Zach does not carry the RB1 gene mutation and should not get retinoblastoma in his remaining eye. These two things alone are miracles since we knew Zach had a 50% chance of needing chemo, and we were told that he would/should carry the RB1 mutation.
Zach has done amazingly well and has handled it all better than Andrew and I have. There have been many times we have been thankful that Zach was so young when he lost his eye because he has no knowledge or recollection of anything that happened. It seems strange to be thankful for something like that, but he has no idea what it is like to have vision or even having a right eye. His “special eye” is all he will ever know.
Zach is your normal toddler, just with one eye instead of two. He can do anything any other kid his age can. He loves to play and has the sweetest personality. He also loves to show off his strong will and stubbornness. Zach’s favorite things to do are swimming and entertaining people. He loves making people laugh and will point to you when you are supposed to clap for him.
Zach goes to St. Jude about every 10 weeks now, which can change as his doctor sees fit. When we go, a typical trip consists of weights, measurements, and other vitals like that as well as his examination under anesthesia (EUA) where Dr. Wilson does a thorough eye exam. Twice a year Zach has an MRI in addition to his EUA to make sure his orbits and brain still look normal. Zach does about as well as can be expected during these times. We absolutely love our St. Jude family, but we are thankful that we are going as a precaution now instead of expecting to find cancer.
With all the blessings we have experienced, it doesn’t mean we still don’t have hard days. Even though, we cling to our faith and our trust in God, we are still healing. There are some days where the fact that Zach had to go through so much at such a young age still hurts as if it were yesterday. There are days when Zach gets looked at funny by strangers because his prosthetic eye is upside down, and it hurts that he can’t be like all the other kids. Some days the pain is as real as the day Zach went in for surgery, and I sobbed harder than I ever thought I was capable of. It does not get easier to watch your child be put to sleep and leave him for his exams, but he is in the absolute best hands at St. Jude. There are days where I feel hurt when people make jokes about Zach’s prosthetic eye. There are days when the fears I have over Zach getting cancer again make me want to run and hide. The hardest thing for me as a mom to accept was that I could not protect him from this, and that has been HARD. But I choose joy in the midst of my pain.
I praise God because He held Zach and us in all of this. His timing was perfect even in the midst of this dark time. I have learned during and after Zach’s diagnosis that my God really is enough. I have been able to talk to people who are struggling and say with more confidence than I have ever had that God is more than enough to get you through whatever you are going through. It doesn’t make it easy, but He is enough.
I would have never chosen this path for Zach, but God has used Zach’s journey to bring glory to His name. It brings our hearts so much joy to know that even though Zach has had to go through so much, He can use Zach’s story to bring others to Him. I love hearing the stories of people being able to invite others to church when they ask about Zach. I love being stopped in the store, park, and gym where people say, “This must be Zach. Where do you go to church?” Praise His name! Even though Satan meant this for evil, God has used it for good. We have been reminded that God has such a bigger plan than we know for Zach. However, we still know that as soon as our next visit to St. Jude, Zach may no longer be considered cancer free. We know that everything can change very quickly. No matter what comes, we know that our God is never taken by surprise, and we trust in Him.
We thank each every one of you for your prayers throughout this past year! Please don’t stop! They mean more than you will ever know and have given us encouragement when we needed it most. We appreciate each and every one of you and thank you for joining us in this journey!
Joshua 1:9 “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”