Tears well up as Ann Range speaks of the generosity Creston people have shown for a young man who lives 1,000 km to the east.
“Even during Christmas season, when people have their own families to care for, the support has been just unbelievable, she said last week.
Range has a nephew in Saskatchewan who suffers from a rare form of cancer. Zach Andrew Cook has desmoplastic small round cell tumor (DSRCT). His is one of only five DSRCT cases in Canada and has the 20-year-old fighting for his life. His only hope might lie in treatment at MD Anderson Children’s Hospital in Houston TX.
DSRCT is a soft cell tissue sarcoma, aggressive to a frightening extent. Zach had surgery to remove tumours from his stomach last spring, along with chemotherapy and radiation treatmets. Within months more growths were found in his chest and abdomen.
Range, a 20-year Creston resident whose bright smile cheers customers and co-workers as Extra Foods, couldn’t just sit back and think about the battle her brother, Jim Cook, and his family were fighting to give her nephew perhaps his only chance at survival.
“I asked Extra Foods if I could do a fundraiser for Zach and got the go ahead—just the initial consultation with the oncologist in Houston costs $24,000,” she said.
Friends and co-workers rallied around Range and a bake sale was organized in the store. She put together a display about Zach with information about DSRCT and cut out a paper tree that she would invite customers to decorate with tributes to their own loved ones who had experienced cancer.
“I was told that a typical bake sale raised about $500,” she said. “I set a goal of $2,000—I am an optimistic person. We raised $2,136!”
An excerpt from Jim Cook’s blog gives some background.
Our son Zachary Andrew Cook was born the 21st day of January, 1996 in the city of Leduc in Alberta, Canada.
Zach is the youngest of our three children and has always been very special to us all.
From a very young age it was obvious he would be a great ball player by the way he could throw Lego blocks and Hot Wheels at his big Brother. Zach was a natural and started playing on organized teams when he was still a little boy.
Zach has always been a real athlete playing all sports as he grew up, but Baseball still remains his passion.
Right from grade school Zach showed a great interest in learning and every year made the honour role, including all through High School, where he graduated Grade Twelve in 2014, with Honours with Great Distinction!
Zach headed off to post secondary school and graduated at the top of his class and started his apprenticeship in April of this year.
As with every spring Zach was busy getting ready for another Ball season and had been practicing with two teams and ready for another summer of great Ball and hanging with his team mates. During a game in late May he was playing second base and was running backwards to catch a fly ball in right field, the right fielder was also trying to make the play and Zach collided with him and fell over backwards onto his shoulder. There was some swelling but Xrays showed no breaks.
Because of his injury and the fact he was due for a complete annual physical Zach saw his family Doctor where the tumor was discovered in his lower abdomen. Within just a few days he had an Ultra Sound, CT Scan and MRI, followed by PET Scans and Bone Marrow Biopsy, Zach was told on the 19th of June 2015 he did have a cancer. After further pathology work done by MD Anderson Children’s Hospital in Texas we learned that in fact he was now diagnosed with the very rare cancer known as Desmoplastic Small Round Cell Tumor (DSRCT) and we knew that there would be a real battle in the weeks and months ahead.
Hopes for treatment and surgery in December were overly optimistic. Zach got an appointment at MD Anderson Children’s Hospital in January. But his illness is progressing at such a rate that the schedule has been bumped up. On Boxing Day, Zach and his parents fly south to prepare for a December 28 check-in date.
In preparation, Zach’s own medical team has had him on chemotherapy regimen. And his family is facing financial challenges. The US treatment will not be covered by Medicare or any other type of insurance or government program.
The cold, hard truth is that economics will play a large part in determining whether Zach lives more than a few more months. Jim Cook’s words explain.
“It’s really sad that insurance companies in Canada only pay for treatment for your child if they become ill while far away from home, but absolutely no coverage if your loved one has a very rare cancer and the best hope is in another country. We have petitioned our Canadian government, the Provincial government and anyone else who we thought may have an interest in saving a young man who has so much to offer this world.”
It has been difficult for Ann Range to follow the story of her nephew from a distance, but the self-described Christian takes strength from her faith and, now, from her own community.
“I thought about submitting a Warm Fuzzy to the Advance, but that just doesn’t seem like it’s enough,” she said. “I cannot say enough to describe what a wonderfully generous community we live in. People have no connection to Zach other than through me, but yet they have been so kind and supportive. Thank you to all.”
More about Zach can be found on the web site his dad has created, www.teamcookerino.com. His sister, Rayne, has created a Go Fund Me campaign, which can be found by going to www.gofundme.com and typing in Zach Cook.