St. Jude patient Zac, bone cancer

One tough gamer

By the age of 7, Zac had already completed treatment for blood cancer. Four years later, when he was diagnosed with bone cancer, his family turned to St. Jude.

 

When Zac was 6 years old, he underwent treatment for Burkitt lymphoma at a hospital near his family’s home.

When Zac completed treatment, his parents, Amy and Jeffrey, hoped they’d put the world of childhood cancer behind them.

But in April 2016, Zac’s right leg began to hurt.

“It was easy to think it was growing pains,” Jeffrey said.

That May, Zac started to limp. 

 

His thigh looked swollen. We were hoping for the best, but after what we had already been through, the thought that it could be something more lingered.

Amy, St. Jude patient Zac's mom

 
St. Jude patient Zac with Allie Pribnow MD

St. Jude patient Zac with Allie Pribnow M.D.

Tests soon revealed a mass in Zac’s right leg, identified as a type of bone cancer called osteosarcoma. This time, Zac’s parents turned to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital for his treatment.

Treatments invented at St. Jude have helped push the overall childhood cancer survival rate from 20% to more than 80% since it opened more than 50 years ago.

Zac started treatment immediately. After five cycles of chemotherapy, however, scans showed the primary tumor in his right leg had grown, and there were lesions in his left leg.

St. Jude patient Zac during the holidays at Tri Delta House

St. Jude patient Zac during the holidays at Tri Delta Place, a housing facility for patients and their families on the St. Jude campus.

Zac underwent an amputation of his right leg above the knee. He was fitted with a prosthesis that will be extended as he grows. He then underwent six additional cycles of chemotherapy.

In November 2017, during a routine checkup, scans showed the cancer had metastasized, and Zac has since continued with chemotherapy. He also receives physical therapy.

 

St. Jude has been a blessing. We’re thankful to be here. They’ve done so much for Zac and for our whole family.

Amy, St. Jude patient Zac's mom

 

Zac loves to play video games, especially any games featuring Mario. As a matter of fact, the socket on his prosthesis features images of Mario and Luigi.

And it was Zac’s love of video games that helped him learn to manage his pain and not have to take a lot of pain medication.

St. Jude patient Zac underwent an amputation after scans found the primary tumor had grown

St. Jude patient Zac underwent an amputation after scans found the primary tumor had grown.

“Zac realized the medicines would make him groggy,” Amy said. “And the grogginess was making him not play his video games as well as he knew he could.”

Zac’s most recent set of scans showed no tumor growth.

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