“They Should Have Fed Him More Broccoli”

Laura and Zach

Laura Sobiech is the author of “Clouds: A Memoir,” a book that chronicles the final year of her son Zach’s life before he passed away from osteosarcoma in 2013. Her book has been adapted to the big screen in “Clouds,” an original movie streaming on Disney+ this fall. Fin Argus will play Zach Sobiech, and Neve Campbell will play Laura Sobiech.

When Zach was diagnosed with osteosarcoma almost seven years ago, I wondered why? Why did this otherwise strong and healthy boy - a boy who had been to the doctor only once in the previous three years - get bone cancer?
Other people had the same question.

"Clouds: A Memoir" by Laura Sobiech. Fin Argus, who plays Zach in "Clouds," is featured on the book cover.

“They should have fed him more broccoli,” one woman said after Zach was diagnosed.

When I heard this, I remember thinking, I’ve been feeding him broccoli since before he could even chew! Bone cancer doesn’t give a @#$% about broccoli! I felt judged, angry and annoyed.

Why do we do this? Why do we serve up answers we know we don’t actually have?

I think that sometimes in order to keep the crazy away, we pretend it can’t touch us.

We live in a chaotic world where we trust our outcome based methodology. We find great comfort in the belief that the right foods, the right parenting style and the right education will equal healthy and well-adjusted children. We sooth ourselves by believing we can protect our children from all the suffering of this world.  Then, when the chaos gets a little too close for comfort, we turn to unreasonable prescriptions we anxiously spout off for the unfortunate ones, and we convince ourselves that it can’t possibly happen to us.

The truth is, it most definitely can happen to any one of us no matter what our methodology. We are all just one chaotic cell away from being one of “them.”

But, it’s not just childhood cancer families who experience the “should haves.” It’s anyone who experiences a crisis. What do we think when we hear something tragic on the news. A house burns down because a candle was left burning…They should have put the candle out. A tragic car accident happens and a father of four dies…He shouldn’t have been driving in this weather. A child falls into a gorilla cage…She should have never taken her eyes off of him. A child is diagnosed with cancer…She should have fed him more broccoli.

Yes, these things terrify us. But, if we really want our world to be less chaotic and terrifying, then we need to stop pointing fingers or offering up meaningless platitudes. We need to change it.

And we CAN change it.

Before Zach died we set up a fund to raise money for research in order to find real answers about why he got osteosarcoma.  In less than two years, the research team is on schedule to publish fifteen scientific papers communicating their discoveries and have developed research/treatment partnerships with two pharmaceutical companies.  The team is also on track to field clinical trials to test new and better therapies to treat this disease.
So, why did my kid get osteosarcoma? I don’t know yet. But I do know this disease has been around for a long, long time and it won’t stop taking lives until we seek better answers. And I know for certain it wasn’t a lack of broccoli.

Written by Laura Sobiech
Laura is the author of a book titled “Clouds: A Memoir” about her family’s journey with their son, Zach, as he battled cancer and eventually wrote a goodbye song called “Clouds.” She spends much of her time sharing that story, speaking at various events around the country and working with Children’s Cancer Research Fund. To read more about Laura, check out our blog post “Clouds: A Memoir” – Q&A with Author Laura Sobiech. 

Support the Zach Sobiech Osteosarcoma Fund

Before Zach died, he and his family started the Zach Sobiech Osteosarcoma Fund to raise funds for researchers developing better, safer treatments for the disease that took Zach too soon. Learn more about how you can support the fight to end osteosarcoma.