COLUMBUS- Eyes wide, Mandi Zachary sits in her kitchen and tells the story about the moment she learned her 4-year-old son had lymphoblastic leukemia.
“There is no way it is cancer. That’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard,” she recalled.
After hearing that long, complicated sentence from doctors, she and her husband needed to answer a big question. Did they want to fly or drive to Memphis, Tenn., the next day to the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital Pediatric Cancer Center?
That’s where their St. Jude story began. And for the next two and a half years, their lives turned upside down as they watched their little boy, Eli Zachary, go through treatment in hopes of healing.
Zachary described moments of fear and surprise.
“And they walked in, covered in head to toe, in biohazard gear, and it shocked him. You’re putting that in my baby? And if it touches you it’s that dangerous. and you’re gonna put it in his body?”
But behind that intentional poison is years of scientific research and medical protocols all developed at St. Jude that saved Eli’s life, along with thousands of other kids around the world.
That’s an important message this mom wants people to know.
“When you donate, it’s not just in that little area. Even if you are never even going to go to St. Jude for treatment, your doctors are most likely using a protocol from St. Jude,” Zachary said.
Eight years after the diagnosis and a family move of 1,800 miles away, the Zacharys now live in Columbus.
Eli, 13, does not remember his parents’ fear or the treatment he endured, but he says he wouldn’t change a thing.
“If I changed anything, I’d be different from what I am right now and things would be different. And I don’t want that. I like things the way they are right now,” he said.
And that life is filled with friends, family, football, baseball, and even video games.
“We’re really excited about those normal teenage struggles. He’s 13, and he acts like a 13-year-old,” Mandi Zachary said with a big smile on her face.