It was cancer: stage four metastatic neuroblastoma. He began chemotherapy, radiation therapy and underwent surgery to remove the mass, which Zak called: “The Green Goblin!”
Zak from Belfast
Two weeks after Zak, from Belfast, began going to playgroup in 2015, he became very poorly. He was pale and wanting to sleep all the time. A scan at hospital revealed a mass on Zak’s kidney the size of a small football, which had spread to his bone marrow.
After fourteen months of intense treatment, Zak got the all-clear and started a two-year treatment trial to reduce his chances of relapsing. When asked what his greatest wish was, Zak explained how much he loves to build Lego, especially Batman - cue a trip to Legoland, Windsor arranged by his wishgranter, Nicola, where some exciting surprises in wait...
“Once he knew he was going, he talked about his wish every day for three weeks and had a countdown in the kitchen,” recalled Gareth.
The family flew from their home in Belfast to stay in the Legoland hotel for two nights. Before the flight, Zak was invited to meet the pilot in the cockpit and he even got to wear his hat! Gareth said: “When he got to the hotel, he was so excitable he actually couldn’t speak – he was trying to talk so fast about everything he was seeing that his mouth couldn’t keep up!”
For Zak, the best part of the whole trip was when he got to meet his favorite character - Lego Batman. Gareth reflected: “For that fifteen minutes it was the first time we saw him as a child again.”
For that fifteen minutes it was the first time we saw him as a child again.-- Gareth, father
“We had no idea how much detail his wish would involve,” explained Gareth, “everything was taken care of, so that we could just enjoy being a family together.”
For Zak, his wish gave him the chance to be a child again, after such a long time spent only around adults in hospital and just focusing on getting well, he was able to go on an adventure that was entirely his own creation. It especially meant a lot for the family to be together as one unit as Zak’s baby sister was born during his treatment so he had missed spending time with her and his Mum, as well as missing out on going to playgroup and starting nursery with his friends.
Gareth added: “When we left for the wish Zak was under the weather, but when we got back he was a different boy – he’s not afraid of anything!” Gareth says Zak is more confident around children his own age, and he has been well enough to start school this September.
Gareth emphasised the power of a wish: “Kids have done nothing to deserve illness, and we weren’t in a position to give him the wish. It took all the worry away from us. It was all for him.”
When we left for the wish Zak was under the weather, but when we got back he was a different boy – he’s not afraid of anything!-- Gareth, father