Friends help 9-year-old celebrate last chemo treatment

It's probably the last place you'd expect a party - the hospital. But this one had cake and cookies, and even applause.

CREVE COEUR, MO - It's a good day to begin a new day.

And the bell is what a new day sounds like for 9-year-old Zac Gossage.

"He's the strongest kid I've ever met in my whole life," says Zac's mom, Stacy Tooley.

Even the mascots, Louie and Fredbird from Blues and Cardinals, showed up to celebrate and for reasons far more significant than to say a birthday.

This is Zac's last chemotherapy treatment for Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia, after three years, two months and a dozen trips to the emergency room.

"My temperature was like once 104," Zac recalled. 

And he admitted that was pretty scary.

We first met Zac shortly after he was diagnosed. He and his best friend Vincent were being a little silly.

"Why does the chicken cross the playground?," Vincent asked us, "To get to the other slide"

Being silly is exactly what Zac needed.  And you might be surprised what the then 7-year -old Vincent understood about Zac's cancer.

"It's when you're white blood cells and your red blood cells fight," Vincent explained.

As far as friendship goes, these young students were pretty good teachers. One day, after Zac started losing his hair because of the chemo, Vincent showed up to class wearing a stocking cap.

"And he said, 'Mrs. Koester, I have a surprise for Zac," recalled Adrienne Koester, the first grade teacher.

"And I said, 'Well you do?' 'Yes I do.' And he pulls off his stocking cap and here I see that he shaved his head."

 "I cut it off," said Vincent, "To make Zac feel like he's not the only one without any hair."  

"To have that support, to be a normal kid when everybody is looking at you different, "Stacy Tooley says, "It makes me really happy that he has him."

And it wasn't just Vincent.  At the Cardinals Kids Cancer Center at Mercy Hospital, dozens of family members, caregivers and old friends came to celebrate Zac's new beginning. 

With his health, Zac also gets back his time and he already has plans for it.

"He wants to do a lot for other cancer families and cancer foundations," says Zac's dad, Cliff Gossage.

It turns out that the best medicine medicine for Zac wasn't chemo - it was community giving this day extra meaning.

"I don't know. I made it through and that's good," Zac said.

The message that for all of us, there's strength in numbers is clear as a bell.

"It's the end of a long road and the start of a new beginning," Cliff said.

(© 2016 KSDK)


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