Many drawing strength, inspiration from 'Zaching'

February 15, 2012|Kevin Cowherd

Let me start by saying I don't have the whole "Zaching" thing down yet. Oh, I tried. It's the flex-the-biceps part that gets me. You kind of need biceps first.

But everyone else seems to have the hang of it. Men, women and kids are "Zaching." Celebrities, athletes, regular Joes and Janes are doing it, too. They're "Zaching" all over the country, all over the world.

I look for the Coke polar bears to be "Zaching" any day now.

Oh, look at that — just saw a photo of Maryland basketball coach Mark Turgeon "Zaching." Had a big grin on his face, like he just beat Duke. Which, of course, he did not. So "Zaching" must do something for your endorphins, too.

"Tebowing" is out, "Zaching" is in — that's what they tell me. So I have to hit the gym. Hard.

If you're not hip to it yet, "Zaching" is a tribute to Zach Lederer, the 18-year-old University of Maryland freshman and student manager of the Terps' basketball team who's fighting brain cancer.

Turns out Zach himself originated "Zaching." This was Jan. 25th, not long after his childhood cancer had returned, when they wheeled him out of the operating room after another brain surgery.

Lying in his hospital bed, still groggy from the anesthesia, hooked up to tubes snaking everywhere, he suddenly lifted his arms and flexed his biceps. It was a classic muscleman pose. His dad took a picture and posted it on Facebook.

Zach's message was clear: I'm still here. Still strong. This thing hasn't beaten me yet.

A couple of his cousins saw the photo and thought it was cool. They posted a photo of themselves striking the same pose as a tribute. Soon, the pose went viral. The newest web craze had begun.

Funny how our society works, though.

Here's a sick kid fighting one of the most insidious cancers there is. A kid who has no idea what the future holds for him, health-wise. Yet people everywhere — not just cancer patients — seem to be drawing strength from him.

You look at how the Maryland basketball team has rallied around Zach Lederer. The Terps have loved him, worried about him, prayed for him and worn the white cancer sneakers in his honor in the midst of this trying, up-and-down, 14-10 season.

Most of all, they've gained perspective from him.

When Pe'Shon Howard blew out his knee last week, a torn ACL that ended his season, it was a crushing blow for the starting point guard. A crushing blow for Maryland.

But the unspoken thought among Terps' coaches and players was this: keep your head up. Look what Zach's going through.

"He's been a great inspiration for us this year," Turgeon said Wednesday as the Terps prepared to face Boston College tonight at Comcast Center. "The thing this team has had to go through doesn't seem like very much compared with what Zach has already gone through and is getting ready to go through."

Nope, it sure doesn't.

There's been so much media interest in his story that Zach Lederer met with reporters yesterday.

Here's what he says he has to go through now: six months of chemotherapy. Then maybe two to four months of radiation. It'll depend on how much the cancerous tumor inside his brain has shrunk.

What's clear is that this latest bout with cancer came as a complete shock to Zach and his family. They were convinced he had beaten it after it was diagnosed the first time, back when he was 11.

But as he has since his surgery last month — since he pulled himself up in that hospital bed and raised his arms and flexed and stared challengingly at the camera — he insisted this latest setback didn't get him down.

"The only reason I was at all upset about it and what I'm going through is that I was upset for everyone else out there – my community, my family," he said. "I thought everybody is going to be up worrying at night about Zach, which they shouldn't be doing.

"Don't waste your time worrying about me, because I'm going to be OK."

In the meantime, he still seems slightly bewildered by how much "Zaching" has caught on.

"I've gotten photos of teams and celebrities (doing it), but in my mind, the coolest ones are the kids in the hospital," he said. "The reason it's so cool is that my point got across. If these people are in the hospital, they'd rather be anywhere else or home, but they're showing that they're strong and they're going to make it."

It's amazing what one simple, grainy photo on the Internet has sparked.

Absolutely amazing.

kevin.cowherd@baltsun.com

Listen to Kevin Cowherd at 7:20 a.m. Tuesdays on 105.7 The Fan's "The Norris and Davis Show."

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