Not everyone is cut out to be a team captain. But Zackary, 11, definitely has what it takes: he has faced off against the toughest possible adversary – leukemia – and is bound and determined to emerge triumphant from the experience. When it comes to inspiring and motivating the people around him, he’s a natural. On February 21, at the CHU Sainte-Justine Winter Triathlon, Zackary will bring this indomitable spirit to his team, proudly wearing a captain’s “C” on his jersey.
Zack will be at the starting line to cheer on his teammates as the race gets underway. In June, the ardent hockey fan hung up his own skates temporarily to focus his energy on another battleground: the fight for his life. The arena? Sainte-Justine.
Once a week, Zack heads to the hospital for his chemotherapy, part of the lineup that is helping him take on his most aggressive rival yet: acute lymphoblastic leukemia.
A caring team of professionals is there to greet him: hematologist-oncologists Dr. Jean-Marie Leclerc, Dr. Caroline Laverdière and Dr. Thai Hoa Tran, and pivot nurse Pascal Bernier. Pascal has been right by Zack’s side, through thick and thin, through every victory and defeat.
The fact that Zackary really trusts Pascal is no accident. They took the time to make sure he was paired up with someone who suits his personality. It’s great to know they’ve got our backs.
Mélissa Villemaire, Zackary's mom
Zack’s medical team is making sure that he gets the best possible treatment. They constantly tweak it based on his condition and the progression of the disease. They adapt their approach to what they know about the biology of his leukemia and how he responds to treatment.
Luckily, he is reacting very well to the treatments so far. That means less time in the hospital, less aggressive chemo, and fewer and less severe side effects.
The way I see it, Zackary’s treatment is an example of the other side of what we refer to as ‘precision medicine,’ even if we are still using conventional chemotherapy agents. We put our leading-edge expertise and sophisticated technology to work to better predict his chances of beating his cancer and adjust the intensity of his treatment. As a result, we can keep the disease in check and minimize the side effects over the short and long term. We have research, and everyone who believes in it, to thank for being able to do what we do and keep making progress.
Dr. Thai Hoa Tran
There have been highs and lows along the way, of course, and Zack has learned to deal with his fair share of trials and tribulations. His mood tends to be all over the place. He has had to put sports on hold for the time being. And even his tastes in food have changed.
A fighting spirit
Zack refuses to let the situation get the better of him. Then again, he has never been one to back down from a fight. When he feels up to it, he goes to school, where his teachers and classmates welcome him with open arms. And together with his parents and his two sisters, he has gotten involved in the CHU Sainte-Justine Foundation’s Winter Triathlon.
Giving back is one of our core values as a family. This is the second time we’ll be taking part in the Winter Triathlon. The first time, all three of our kids were healthy. So it obviously resonates even more deeply with us this year.
Steve Arsenault, Zackary's dad
On February 21, Captain Zack will be cheering on his teammates at the starting line as they skate, ski and run for Sainte-Justine.
And his team is already at the top of the leaderboard. One week before the big day, they have raised over $30,000 in donations! Zack is particularly proud of the results. He has put several months of hard work into the initiative, something he told Santa Claus he was going to do back in November:
Since it will soon be Christmas, I would like to tell you what I really hope to receive: a super comfy hockey robe with pockets. I used to have one, but they had to cut it for my treatments and it’s too small.
Because it’s the holiday season, I want to find a way to get involved in the community. I ‘d like to do the triathlon to raise money for Sainte-Justine.
Thank you for being so generous, Santa!
Thank YOU for being so generous, Zack! Hundreds of people will be coming out to run, skate and ski for you during the Winter Triathlon. We’ll see you there. In the meantime, we’re naming you our star player!
Did you know…?
- Sainte-Justine is where 65% of pediatric tumours in Quebec are diagnosed and treated.
- Sainte-Justine is the province’s only bone marrow transplant centre
- The Quebec Clinical Genomics Centre is housed at Sainte-Justine. Serving both the pediatric and adult communities, the centre focuses on advancing genomics and genetic sequencing in order to improve prevention and treatment with unprecedented precision and quality.