How cancer created a bond between two kids named “Zach”

I’ve never seen a ghost or a spirit.  I’m terrified of the thought, but I’m still intrigued.  Spirits to me are otherworldly-a concept you want to believe in, but you aren’t sure if it’s real.

But they are real, and I learned that during my son’s radiation treatment for cancer.

Radiation is odd.  It signals the end of a journey that no parent should ever have to travel.  It was the end of the journey for my son, Zach.  He made it through chemotherapy and now we were on the last leg of our trip, counting down the days to the end.  March 20, 2013 was the day this nightmare would end.

In order to receive radiation, I thought Zach would just need to hold really still, they would administer the proper dose and we’d be done.  The reality is something straight out of a horror film.

Children undergoing radiation have a mask fashioned to the shape of their head.  The mask is then secured down to the table to prevent any sort of movement.  Marks are made on their young bodies so the radiologists know exactly where to administer organ damaging treatment.

But that was not the most remarkable moment during our radiation treatments.

A quiet morning in the waiting room at the radiologist was interrupted by the jingling of car keys.

I had never heard or seen another person come into the waiting room at 8 a.m.  I looked to see who was checking in to the clinic, and I thought I had seen a ghost.

As I tried to wake my brain up from exhaustion to see who had entered, I realized I was looking at Zach Sobiech: a smiling, curly-haired kid whose cancer had clearly taken a toll on his teenage face.  I saw colorless cheeks and sunken eyes as he hobbled in for treatment.

Of course my Zach and I knew who he was and I nudged him to say, “Do you know who that is?”  He said, “No mom, who?”  He was just as exhausted as I was that morning.  I answered, “That’s Zach Sobiech.”

Zach stared for a minute, focused in on the other Zach’s smiling face and turned to me.  “Mom, he’s just a kid like me.”  My eyes welled with tears and at that moment, the impact of childhood cancer really hit me.

While one child was hoping to end treatment and start his life again, another child was hoping to squeeze more time out of his.  Without knowing each other or speaking a word to each other, a common bond, a common spirit was felt between two boys who are just kids.  I saw spirits that day.  Two, in fact.  And I wasn’t scared.

Written by Leah Schulte
Leah Schulte is the mother of Zach, a 16-year-old Hodgkin lymphoma survivor. Both Leah and Zach are advocates for childhood cancer awareness.