What does nine years represent? I’ve been thinking about that a lot the last week. Going to a child’s funeral will certainly get you thinking. For my daughter Natalie, nine years represents how long ago she was diagnosed with cancer. And for Zack Finestone, it represents how many years he battled cancer before finally, grudgingly, losing the fight. We met Zack and his family when Nat was first diagnosed with leukemia, during her first few weeks in the hospital. She was three, Zack was five. Zack was also much sicker. His cancer – neuroblastoma – was one of the worst. But during his relatively short life, Zachary lived. Boy did he live. Despite spending the majority of his life fighting for it, he taught everyone else not to take it – life – too lightly. And his parents Scott and Rebecca taught us all just how strong you can be when you have to. Not many among us could survive what they have for so long. It starts when your doctor refers you to a specialist saying “go now” and when you get there none of the kids in the waiting room have hair. It’s the uncomfortably long, two handed handshake from a doctor you don’t even know as he looks you in the eye and says your child has cancer. The way everyone wears gloves when working with your child to protect themselves from the chemotherapy. Its the numbing realization that you are the statistic. And now, its the almost guilt feelings that my child has survived, while they have lost their only one. But if you really want to understand, read the blog that Zachary’s dad Scott kept for years, chronicling the battle. The January 14th entry is the toughest for me to read. Photographer Michael Price has been documenting kids with cancer. The images are wonderful. Zack is the one with the soccer ball. Nat is the fairy princess in the ruby red slippers. Always the ruby red slippers. Scott Finestone survived by writing. For me is was images. Here’s the visual story of that first day nine years ago, and the following three weeks in just a few pictures. After that, I put the camera down. Scott still writes.
Remember Zachary. Remember living.