Seven-year-old Zachary Johnson of Mequon loves drawing, playing soccer and LEGOs, and pretending to be Mario in a video game.
In January, the Johnson family had just returned home from a vacation when Zachary's nanny, Amanda, noticed spotting on his skin. He had also had a series of ear infections and headaches. The symptoms led the family to take him to other doctors for more opinions.
After drawing blood, doctors diagnosed Zachary with B Cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia, or B Cell ALL, the most common type of childhood cancer.
"Dr. Tower, our oncologist, said something I will never forget," said Zachary's mom, Tracy. "He said, 'trust the doctors, and don't go on the internet' because that's the first thing you want to do is go on the internet and OK, B Cell ALL.. what is childhood cancer?"
The Johnsons took Dr. Tower's advice and did not go online. Instead, they focused on figuring out how to integrate Zachary's diagnosis into their busy lives.
The family, along with Amanda's help, settled into a routine in an effort to keep a sense of normalcy.
"What do you tell the school? What do you tell the other family members?" Tracy wondered. "How do you make it all work? Because the goal is to be done with this someday and return to a normal life. It shows it takes a village. One person can't do this."
When it came time to design this year's TODAY'S TMJ4 MACC Star it came down to the last minute.
"We had one day left; it was due Monday," Tracy said. But she knew Zachary knew what to do.
"He just took a piece of paper, started drawing, and I was kind of doodling myself, and all of a sudden he said, 'here's my design.'"
Zachary said he designed it, "because I had seen a lot of pictures and I like it."
"There were children positioned around the globe. They had their arms outstretched. All had smiles on their faces. All looked different," said Tracy.
She said she asked Zachary what it meant and he told her, "You know, they're going to find a cure. We're going to find a cure."
And thus came to be the theme for the 2017 MACC Star: "Together we will find a cure."
The TODAY'S TMJ4 MACC Star is $10 and available at Balistreri Sendik's food markets and Buddy Squirrel Nut Shops. All proceeds go to the MACC Fund.
For more information visit maccfund.org.