Category Archives: Zach

Happy Birthday Zach!

A one year update

Very frequently in conversation friends make a point to ask, “So how’s your son doing?”  I’m grateful for how people remember him.  Many people tell me how they have prayed for him too.  It also prompts me to give an update here on the blog since so many of you followed his story last May when we discovered and treated his retinoblastoma.

Today, Tuesday, March 27th, 2012, is Zach’s first birthday.  It’s amazing to think that he’s already one year old.  Time sure flies!  Zach is a happy, joyful boy (believe me, he’s ALL BOY–in a house with six sisters, he’s catching on).  He’s almost always smiling when he interacts with us.  He enjoys exploring the world around him–like on Saturday when we took a two hour letter boxing walk turned hike.  Zach is a wonderful part of our family and we cannot imagine life without him.

As you can see from this photo, his prosthetic eye is a beautiful match to his real eye–this photo shows them both off very well.  Thanks to Emily Alberta of Angel Snap Photography.  Thanks also to Greg Dootz, Zach’s ocularist–see Update #5 and Update #12.

What about the cancer?

We thank God that Zach has a 100% clear report up to the present.  When the surgery first happened to remove his eye, the pathology report confirmed that the cancer (which filled 80% of his eye) was fully contained.  It has not grown beyond the perimeter of the eye or down the optic nerve.

Zach has an exam under anesthesia (EUA) periodically.  Sarah and Zach have now gone back to U of M Hospital for five exams where they put Zach to sleep and examine his good eye up close to scout-out any potential cancer.  So far so good.  There’s no trace of cancer in Zach’s good eye.  Thank God for his powerful protection and mercy!

Next steps

The next steps for Zach are as follows.

  • He will continue to have the EUA’s about every 4 months (this first year it was every 2 months, and now they are spacing out more and more)
  • He will begin wearing glasses soon–he has already been fitted for eye glasses to help protect his one remaining eye from any scratches or injuries.
  • He will grow up like normal kids playing in similar ways and learning to see with his single eye.
  • We’ll keep having a medical exam on his eye from now through the end of childhood in ever decreasing frequency (i.e. once per year once he’s beyond 5 or so).
  • At some point he’ll come to understand how he’s different and we’ll help him to understand the implications for him.

By the way if you’d like to read or see all the posting about Zach from this blog in order, click on the tab on the bar on the upper left labelled ZACH.

Thank you to all of you who have left comments along the way.  I don’t always have the time to reply to each and every one, but I do read every word when I approved the comments.

Thanks for praying for Zach, asking about him, helping our family, or whatever you have done.  Today is a great day to celebrate–Happy Birthday First Birthday!



Filed under Parenting, Zach

Zach Update #12 — Zach’s new eye

This week we finally got it–Zach’s new eye!

On Wednesday Sarah and I went together to Greg Dootz’s office at the Kellogg eye center in Ann Arbor.  All I can say is WOW!  I’m amazed at how real it looks.  There were two special moments: The first moment was seeing the eye itself in Greg’s hand.  It was the work of many hours of fitting, design and craftsmanship.  By just looking at the eye alone, it was obvious that this new eye looked just like Zach’s other eye.  Zach’s prosthetic is so well done, it’s remarkable.

The prosthetic eye is a convex fitting that inserts on top of the replacement eyeball (orbital implant) and under his eye lids.  It has a certain range of motion–moving with the motion of the implant.  Here’s what it looked like in Greg Dootz’s hand.

Secondly, seeing Zach’s beautiful face restored to completion and balance was a sight to behold.  For the past 3 months we’ve enjoyed his smile and everything with just one eye, but it was sometimes awkward in public and just plain hard knowing that such a beautiful part of his body was missing.  Seeing Zach’s face now restored was an awesome moment.  And now you get to see him too.  By the way, can you tell which eye is the prosthetic?  Bet you can’t!  It’s hard to tell in person as well.

We’ll add some more reflections in the days to come, but we just wanted you to see the answer to your prayers for our son, Zach.  He’s cancer free and both of his exams under anesthesia have revealed no cancer in the seeing eye.  And now his face looks complete again.

It’s such a joy to see his whole face again.  Looking forward to seeing you in person…


Tim, Sarah and Zach

PS.  If you look on the wall behind us, you can see photos of other patients of Greg’s.  Soon Zach will join the wall of fame!


Filed under Zach

Zach Update # 11 – Great News: Pathology

Just a quick update on this holiday weekend to report that the pathology was (finally) read. We are overjoyed to report that the pathology was a very good report! It revealed that the malignant tumor was fully contained within the eye which was removed. The blastoma had not gone to the optic nerve nor to anywhere beyond a rather safe zone within the eye.

Follow through for Zach therefore includes frequent exams (every 6 to 8 weeks and under anesthesia) to observe the good eye. He will NOT require chemotherapy or radiation.

Next week Monday, July 11th, Zach will have the first of those frequent exams of his good eye. This is a typical protocol for retinoblastoma patients. He will also be sized for his prosthesis at that time which will then be ready in August.

We are so thankful to the Lord for hearing and answering our prayers. You have joined us along the way and we are grateful to you too.

Have a wonderful Independence Day.

Tim and Sarah


Filed under Zach

Zach Update # 10 – Waiting…


Thanks for all your wonderful comments about our blog.  We’ve enjoyed sharing what’s happening.  Thanks again for reading and praying for us.  Recently a lot of you have asked if we have received the pathology report.  Unfortunately the answer is “no, not yet.”

Regretably,  this report is taking much longer than we had anticipated.  Announcing the pathology report was going to be my next post 3 weeks ago, and we are still waiting.  Obviously we have called, and will call again, but there are things that are out of our control even though we wish we were in control.

We do promise that we’ll let you know as soon as we know.  In fact, if you haven’t already, you can look over to the right at “Follow My Blog” and subscribe via email.   You’ll get an email whenever we posting anything (and can unsubscribe at any time.)  That may help some of you who keep logging in but not seeing anything new.

Specific stuff

Just a reminder about where we are right now.  The first two tests for outlying cancer were perfectly clear: bone marrow and spinal fluid sample.  This third test is the pathology of how far the cancer had grown in the eye that was removed.  We know it was malignant.  What we are waiting for is news of how extensive the cancer had grown.  Usually the cancer is encapsulated within the eye and that is what we are hoping for in Zach’s case.

If  you’ve ever waited for something with no way of knowing when the wait would be over, you know what we are doing right now.  Waiting…

As Proverbs 13:12 says,

12 Hope deferred makes the heart sick,
but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.

Or as Psalm 33:20-21

20 We wait in hope for the LORD;
he is our help and our shield.
21 In him our hearts rejoice,
for we trust in his holy name.

In the mean time…

In the mean time, Zach is doing really well!  He has completely healed from the surgery; he’s growing and is doing great.  He never saw out of the bad eye and probably doesn’t miss it.  He’s nursing well, smiling lots and is in general simply a great baby.

Last week Zach travelled with Sarah and I to California to attend the wedding ceremony of one of Sarah’s six brothers, Sam. It was great to see Sarah’s family (and especially the ones on the West Coast.)   Zach’s sisters all stayed home with friends’ families (aren’t they jealous!)

Here’s a photo of us in Santa Monica at the coast.


Tim, Sarah and Zach


Filed under Zach

Zach Reflection: Jesus Makes Eyes

Sarah’s thoughts on eyes…

How beautiful it is to have two eyes! To be honest, I’ve never really paid it much attention.  But now I find myself drawn to people’s eyes.  I am struck at the beauty of God’s perfect design of our faces.  How perfectly two eyes look…  I don’t mean to imply I turn away from my son as I look at him with only one eye.  Though I do miss his other eye – he did have particularly beautiful eyes!  And the one is still beautiful, of course! 🙂 But it reinforces the reality that God’s design is so lovely and well thought out. (That’s an understatement, I know!)  He’s still handsome and sweet as ever.  He’s cooing and starting to “talk” now and has almost rolled over.  He’s huge – in the 98% for weight and height.  That’s my boy!

Every now and then I’m hit by the reality of his blindness in that eye – that it’s really gone.  Just like that, it happened.  And my heart breaks all over again…It really is a loss–one that I think I won’t truly grasp for a while.  Yet, at the same time, I find myself accepting this new reality.  I don’t know… Talk to me in a month and we’ll see how I am. 🙂

The One Who Sees is the One Who Makes Eyes

I’ve been reflecting on God’s ability to make eyes.  Think about this.  Imagine the man Jesus gave sight to had no eyes.  We know he was blind, but just imagine for a moment he was blind because he actually had no eyes!  (He probably had eyes that just didn’t work – but you never know!) And imagine that in order to give him his sight, Jesus actually made him eyes – right there!  Newly formed eyes where there had been none!  That would seem beyond miraculous.  That the God-Man could/would make, out of nothing, brand new eyes for this man who had none…  But now think about the phenomenal reality that occurs everyday as a baby is knitted together in the womb of its mother: eyes, ears, organs, skin etc. being formed from nothing!  It is in fact, equally miraculous!  But instead of happening outside the womb in happens inside!  Yes, it is as miraculous for Jesus to make an eye in a grown man as it is to make it in my womb.  It’s a shame that it’s predictability has made it seem less amazing in our eyes…

The formation of human life and every part of the body is truly miraculous and astounding.  Think about it: what did I do to grow Zach? I ate, I slept, I drank, I took good vitamins to ensure I was getting optimal nutrition.  All things I would do anyway to keep myself alive.  And yet somehow as each day went by a tiny human was growing more and more completely as I did those things.  I had NOTHING to do with Zach growing and being formed as each day went on.

It is God’s work–growing humans–ensuring that the cells come together, begin to multiply according to the instructions of the DNA, continuing day by day in a timely and complete manner, bringing about the onset of labor (doctors still don’t know what actually triggers the onset of an uninduced labor!), guiding the baby through the birth canal and into the world and a mother’s loving arms… Yes, it is God who does it and guides every cell where it ought to be – all with his Sovereign purpose in mind.  He knows the beginning and the end and works all things for those purposes.  And those purposes are for a beautiful kingdom, filled with his glory and people who would love him becuase of his awesomeness in knowledge and power.  Yes, I pray, I know God has purposes for Zach in His Kingdom to know Him and make Him known.  Did God ordain this cancer?  I must say with certainty, He did.  Though it breaks my heart to see his eye gone…And oh, how I pray the cancer is gone and never comes back.

Ah, how I look forward to the resurrection!  All will be made new.  Zach will have his eye again in eternity.  We were intended to be whole, perfect, beautiful.  Yet God deemed it wise to make his glory known in a fallen and broken world.  It is so broken…But there it is, all the more reason resurrection bodies MUST be!  (Thanks Pastor Alberta!) He is making all things new, restoring what was lost! YESSSS!

On the journey,



Filed under Zach

Zach Update # 9 – One week check

One week check

Yesterday we had the one week post-op check with the Doctor.  Everything around Zack’s eye looks really good.  The doctor was very pleased with his progress. Yea Zach!

At the surgery, Zach’s eye was replaced with an orbital implant–an acrylic sphere to which the eye muscles are reattached.  This implant is permanent and will be the spot upon which the prosthesis will be fitted in about 6 more weeks.  In the meantime he has a clear spacer to hold the place for the prosthesis.  In the photo below you can see a sketch of an orbital implant, with muscles attached.  The prosthesis (on the left) goes into the space that fits under the eye lids.

It was just two weeks ago today, that we first visited the ophthalmology clinic and heard the report of Zach’s cancer.  So much has happened in 14 days!  Thanks for your prayers, support, help, meals, cards, and more.

Two cheers!

Furthermore, the bone marrow sample revealed no concern about retinoblastoma in other parts of his body.  So now we’ve gotten negative reports (no cancer) from both the spinal fluid and the bone marrow samples.  Praise the Lord for that good news so far!

The third cheer will be raised when we hear good news from the pathology report of the eye which was removed.  That eye had 80% of the vitreous fluid (the fluid in the eye) displaced with the malignant tumor.  Typically, and very graciously, the cancer is usually  fully contained with they eye itself when caught early.  The pathology report will reveal exactly where the tumor was located and how close to the perimeter of the eye it had moved.  We are also praying and hoping that the tumor had not traveled down the optical nerve.

While this is in the back of our minds as serious threat, I am very at peace day to day and know that fretting will not help.  When the thought comes about that which we do not and cannot know at this point, I lift a prayer to God and leave it with him.

“Lord, may our dear son Zach be totally cancer free.  Would it not please you to see that this cancer has been completely removed?  Have mercy upon my son for your glory.  Thank you that at the cross you withheld your mercy upon your one and only Son, so that all that comes to us as your adopted children is only mercy all the time.  In all this we totally trust you knowing that you will either extend your grace to heal or you will amplify your grace to sustain us.  Amen.”

Grace and peace,



Filed under Zach

Zach Reflection – God’s Providence

God’s Providence

In addition to giving updates, some of our blog entries have also become reflections.  We’ve shared some personal things that have happened and it’s been helpful for us to reflect on events over the past week or so.  In some of the continuing posts I’ll label them reflections (versus updates).  This is a reflection about God’s providence in our situation while all these events with Zach transpired.

“Providence is God’s holy, wise, and powerful preserving and governing every creature and every action.”

Do you ever doubt that God is in control?  Have you ever seen circumstance line up in an uncanny way?  Nothing happens by sheer coincidence.  God is always at work in everything.  Likewise, nothing happens by chance or is outside of God’s control–not even Zach’s retinoblastoma.  God uses all things for his purpose, even blindness.

The Sunday before Zach surgery, a nationally known Pastor in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area, Pastor John Piper preached a message on the story of the Man Born Blind.  If you recall the verse that I quoted on the Friday before the surgery, it was John 9:1-4, the very text Pastor John chose to speak of from the pulpit.  Sheer coincidence?  Divine providence!

I have found his message to be a great encouragement on a number of angles.  Of course, the common issue is blindness from birth, but it also applies to God’s purposes, His sovereignty, and His redemption.  Also, Pastor John makes some great points about loving people who have children with special needs.  This is a sermon about providence, but it is also to us an example of providence at work.

By clicking on the link below, you can read the excerpt and/or watch the sermon online.  It can also be downloaded if you prefer to listen later.  It’s about 40 minutes.


Tomorrow we go to Ann Arbor for a one week check up as a post-surgery check up with the ophthalmologist.  I don’t know if we’ll get any new information or pathology report.  We’re waiting for that important report which is supposed to be given within two weeks from the surgery.

God bless you all.  Thanks for your prayers, your comments, and your love.



Filed under Zach