Most fourth graders this summer are enjoying time off from school, taking vacations and planning for the upcoming school year. But Zach Zeissner is not your average 10-year-old. He was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a form of bone cancer which spreads quickly, and has spent his summer enduring treatments to save his life.
In response to Zeissner's situation, the Fountain Valley Firefighters Association is holding a pancake breakfast fundraiser Saturday to raise money for needed chemotherapy, as well as for surgery to replace his knee and bones in his leg.
Fountain Valley Fire Chief Tony Coppolino is also a soccer coach with AYSO, in which Zach has played for since he was five. Coppolino heard about the Zeissner family's situation and asked what he could do to help. He then went back to his organization and decided a pancake breakfast would be a good way to assist the family with mounting medical bills.
Nicola Weiss has been doing all the fundraising for the family since Zeissner was diagnosed, and her son is best friends with Zach. She said she has also helped with his spirit: "I've told him, 'You've been given a chance to survive and fight this, you can change the way you do things and be active in other ways.'"
Recent studies show mortality rates due to osteosarcoma have been declining at approximately 1.3 percent per year. Long-term survival probabilities for osteosarcoma have improved dramatically during the late 20th century, so the outlook for Zeissner is very hopeful.
"Zach has a long road ahead of him," Weiss said. "The fact that they were able to remove the cancer in his leg and he is responding to chemo his prognosis is good, but he will never be able to go back to doing the things he used to do. With metal rods he won't be stable enough to play soccer again. His life is changing.”
Weiss also said that her son and Zeissner have been making adjustments to their friendship, but are handling everything very well. "It is amazing how kids handle situations like that," she said. "I think he'll be okay."
Anyone interested in helping the Zeissner family and enjoying a good firehouse-cooked breakfast can participate in the fundraiser, which will be held at Fire Station One, 17737 Bushard St., across from Fountain Valley High School from 9 to 11 a.m. Saturday morning. The family is also holding an ongoing fundraiser at Endless Food And Fun in Huntington Beach. For more information, contact Nicola Weiss at firstname.lastname@example.org.