VALDOSTA — Valdosta teenager Zachary Register recently had his wish granted through Kids Wish Network.
Register is a senior at Valdosta High School who was diagnosed with a cancerous brain tumor, which has since been removed and successfully treated, according to his father, Bill Register.
At the age of 8, Zachary complained of constant headaches. A MRI of his brain showed a tumor. A portion of the growth was surgically removed and was misdiagnosed as non-cancerous, said Zach’s father.
No chemotherapy or radiation was ordered.
Last October, Zach’s headaches worsened, and he began to see strange flashing lights. Another MRI showed his brain tumor had grown, and this time it was diagnosed as cancer.
He underwent a second surgery, and doctors said they were able to remove all of the cancer, but the tumor and surgeries left his vision impaired. He lost some peripheral vision in his left eye, Zach said, and the vision in his right eye is like “tunnel vision.”
Zach’s father said at first he was bitter about the earlier misdiagnosis of his son’s tumor, but he later realized that if Zach had undergone chemotherapy following his first surgery, it would have had serious side effects that Zach escaped by waiting until later to have the cancer fully removed. He is thankful now things turned out the way they did for his son.
Zach is a well-rounded teenager who loves to watch movies and TV. But most of all, he loves basketball. He won the Georgia 2003 free-throw championship sponsored by the Knights of Columbus, Zach said. He is a huge fan of college basketball, especially the North Carolina Tar Heels, coached by Roy Williams.
Williams is one of the winningest coaches in college basketball, according to tarheelblue.cstv.com.
Zach had to stop playing basketball when he entered Valdosta High School because his migraines were too bad, and he wanted to focus on his grades, he said.
Leona Abood, who knew Zach from his time at St. John’s School, contacted Kids Wish Network on his behalf, said Zach’s mother, Kathy. Getting a wish through Kids Wish Network isn’t easy. It’s a process, she said, in which they thoroughly research the background and medical history of the person involved.
Zach made several wishes, the first of which was to meet Williams. Second on his wish list was to meet the cast and crew of the hit TV series “NCIS,” a wish his father was personally rooting for.
Kids Wish Network is a nationally recognized charitable organization dedicated to infusing hope, creating happy memories and improving the quality of life for children, according to kidswishnetwork.net. They flew Zach and his family to Chapel Hill, N.C., on Friday, Dec. 11, the day before the Carolina Tarheels game they were to attend where Zach would meet Coach Williams.
Zach’s family stayed at the Carolina Inn, a very posh hotel, Kathy said, and had dinner reservations that evening at a Japanese restaurant called Kanki, which Zach described as about five times as large as Mori Japanese Steak House in Valdosta. The next day, they had lunch reservations at an Italian restaurant, also very posh.
“They really spoiled us,” Kathy said.
It was recommended by Kids Wish Network that Zach and his family bring some small gift to present to Williams when they met him. Zach is friends with Valdosta City Manager Larry Hanson’s son, Dylan, and together, they came up with the idea to present Coach Williams with a baseball-type cap that has ESPN Titletown Valdosta, Georgia, embroidered on it, a cap that very few people have, Zach said.
On game day, Zach said they parked in the reserved parking spot right next to Tyler Zeller, one of the key players on the Tarheels. Zach’s family was given a tour underneath the stadium at the University of North Carolina, where Coach Williams’ office is. He said security was very tight. They had to pass through checkpoints with fingerprint scanners, among other things, he said.
When they met Williams at his office, the coach asked Zach about his condition, etc. Zach and his family posed for photos with Williams and with some of the starting lineup of the Carolina Tarheels team. Zach also was given a basketball signed by Williams.
When they asked Williams if he would put on the ESPN Titletown cap for a photo, the coach demurred. He said he was superstitious about wearing a cap on game day, but said he would gladly hold the cap for a picture.
Zach said he thinks the secret to Coach Williams’ winning record is his work ethic — hard work.
A verse of the famous Walt Disney song, “When You Wish Upon A Star,” says, “If your heart is in your dream, no request is too extreme, when you wish upon a star as dreamers do.” Apparently, Zach Register’s heart was in his dream.
Valdosta Daily Times