Zachary was a healthy active seven year old who loved sports with a passion. Whenever he had a chance, he would be outside, shooting "hoops," playing kickball or throwing a football. The sport didn't matter as long as there were friends and a ball. All this changed in late June 2005. While on vacation, Zach's parents noticed he was not using his left hand. When asked why, he responded "it's just not working right." Puzzled, they figured he had injured it while playing and waited until they returned from vacation to visit a doctor. Zach was referred to a pediatric neurologist after a couple of family practice doctors were stumped by his symptoms. Pediatric neurologists were scarce and the soonest available appointment was in late July. When his symptoms worsened, his mom, demanded a visit with the neurologist. That day, July 11, 2005 will forever be burned in the Tucker family's memory. On that day, Zach was diagnosed with a brain tumor on the right side of his brain.
Zach was immediately transported to All Children's Hospital in Saint Petersburg, Florida to have the tumor removed. After a more extensive MRI study was performed, Zach underwent a craniotomy on July 13, 2005, his 8th birthday. Dirk and Sherry, Zach's parents, felt as if they had entered their worst nightmare. Their youngest child, who just weeks before had won every event he swam in during a swim team competition, was facing a life or death challenge. The surgeons were successful in removing the tumor, but when the pathology report was completed, the family received another blow, the tumor was cancerous.
Zach's tumor was found to be a glioblastoma multiforme tumor. Dirk and Sherry were told this type of tumor was considered rare in children, usually being found in adults over 50 years of age. They were also told the tumor was classified a stage four tumor and very aggressive. Treatment options were limited with a full course of radiation coupled with chemotherapy being the standard protocol. After frantically researching the internet and finding the prognosis very grim, a family friend sent them information on proton radiation therapy. There were only three facilities providing this type of radiation in the entire country. One of those facilities happened to be located just 20 minutes from Dirk and Sherry's hometown in Indiana and had an immediate opening. Feeling God had opened a door for them and praying this therapy might defy the odds by providing a cure, Zach began receiving proton therapy on August 25, 2005 at Midwest Proton Radiation Institute.
Zach received 33 radiation treatments and was on a pill form of chemotherapy during the entire radiation period. He also attended occupational and physical therapy to help his left side regain strength. The Tucker family was blessed by being surrounded by their loving extended family and living with Sherry's parents. Zachary became much stronger during the treatments and experienced virtually no side effects. Everyone was amazed with Zach's optimism and spunk even as he faced the grueling treatment schedule of daily radiation, numerous pills and weekly blood draws.
The Tucker's returned to their home in Florida mid-October. Zach began fighting the side effects from the many medicines he was taking. The biggest challenge was low blood counts and nausea. Within three weeks of being home, Zach was admitted to All Children's for a nine day stay due to severe nausea and vomiting. After modifying his medicines and with his ever present determination, Zach pushed forward living his days as much as he could like any other eight year old boy.
A new treatment plan was established when Dirk, Sherry and Zach went to visit a neuro-oncologist at Duke University on November 22, 2005. The treatment plan was aggressive; alternating the pill form of chemo Zach had been taking with an IV form of chemo in 10 week cycles. Zach started the second cycle of this treatment plan and became very dizzy and unstable after taking the pill form of chemo. It became obvious something was wrong when the dizziness caused Zach to fall from the family's SUV and suffer a concussion. Zach had a follow up MRI on March 31, 2006 and it was discovered he had a new lesion on his brain stem. That day, the family was told there were few if any treatments available medically to heal Zachary.
Knowing God was the only possibility for a cure, all that knew Zach's story began praying for a miracle. Zach was healed on May 9, 2006 when God took him to Heaven. Dirk, Sherry and Lexi's hearts rejoiced knowing he was running with the angels and had the biggest, brightest smile on his face. To be free of the pain, medicines and the broken body he had on earth was a miracle indeed! They continue to place their faith and love in God because they know He has a greater plan than we can see. They miss Zach desperately, but take comfort in knowing they will see him again in Heaven.
Throughout this journey, the Tucker's were overwhelmed with all the love and support they received from their friends and family. They BELIEVE the power of prayer caused many miracles to occur for Zachary through his journey with cancer. They have found their faith in God is the only way to get through their life here on earth. They want to share the love and support they felt and the peace they received by letting God become the center of their lives with those still battling cancer. Giving Hope Through Faith Foundation is dedicated to their brave hero Zachary to accomplish this mission. God's purpose for Zachary was great and it should be shared with many.
Hug your babies everyday! Live life with purpose!