ISLAND FALLS, Maine — Thirteen-year-old Zach Bearor of Island Falls is like most young boys his age. He enjoys being outside playing with friends, riding a four-wheeler or going fishing.
He also loves playing video games and he likes to build things with Legos.
The son of Buffy and Keith Johnson of Mechanic Falls and Kevin and Bunny Bearor of Island Falls, Zach is often the first person to volunteer to help either at the Oakfield Pentecostal Church, where his family attends, or at events hosted by the Island Falls Recreation Department. Known for his contagious smile, Zach can be found most Sundays at church passing out bulletins to people as they enter the meetinghouse.
So last month when the usually happy-go-lucky youth started complaining of persistent headaches and his joyful spirit seemed to be waning, the family knew something was not right.
“Zach started complaining of headaches, but since the flu was going around school we figured that was it,” said his stepmother, Bunny. “But then the headaches continued and he started getting sick to his stomach and vomiting.”
The family took him to Katahdin Valley Health Center, but nothing was found. They were told if the headaches continued they should take him to the hospital in Millinocket. When the headaches persisted, the family took him to the emergency room, where a CAT scan was done.
“When they did the CAT scan, the doctors saw a growth,” Bunny said. “We then went to Portland for an MRI and found out it was a tumor. We didn’t know until they did a biopsy that it was cancer.”
That biopsy was performed on April 19 and the family heard the words that no parent wants to hear … your child has cancer. Bearor was diagnosed with glioblastoma, a common, but aggressive cancer that begins in the brain. The symptoms include headaches, nausea and stroke-like symptoms. The family said doctors fear the cancerous brain tumor can not be fully removed.
On Friday, the family is heading to Maine Medical Center in Portland, where a surgeon will try to remove a large portion of the cancerous growth, with the hopes of improving Zach’s quality of life. He will then undergo chemotherapy treatments.
“This isn’t something that is going to go away,” Buffy said. “The surgery will hopefully increase his quality [of life] and the amount of time we have with him.”
Buffy said she has not discussed with her son how much time he may have, because she wants him to lead as normal a life as possible.
“I like to believe that God is sheltering him from a lot of it, so he keeps the spirit that he has,” his mother said.
Zach and his father moved to the Island Falls area last June, while his mother, step-father and brothers Brandon (18) and David (17) reside in Mechanic Falls.
A seventh-grader at Southern Aroostook Community School, Zach’s favorite subjects in school is band, where he plays trumpet. He enjoys playing Xbox One games, particularly “Minecraft” with his friends. He enjoys listening to Christian music and his favorite movie is “God’s Not Dead.”
Zach can also be found helping out around the Island Falls Fire Department, which is located around the corner from his Main Street apartment.
“I like to roll up the hoses and drain all the water out,” Zach said. “When I grow up, I want to fix airplanes.”
Zach, who was born with neurofibromatosis type 1 — a condition characterized by changes in skin coloring, also enjoys spending time building complex buildings and vehicles with Legos. The family has been in contact with Make-a-Wish and is hoping they will be able to take Zach to Legoland in Winter Haven, Florida.
Community support for the family has been overwhelming. During his most recent trip home from meeting with doctors in Scarborough, Zach was welcomed into town in a fire truck and has also gone for rides with the Maine State Police.
A Gofundme page ( https://www.gofundme.com/nqzsr398) was set up to help the family raise money for medical expenses, travel, food and lodging during Zach’s treatments. A dance was held this past Friday evening at the Island Falls Municipal Building, where about $600 was collected for the family.
A potluck dinner is also in the works for Sunday, May 15, at 4 p.m. at the Island Falls Municipal Building. Following the dinner, an auction will be held. Items for the auction may be donated by calling Ruth Frazier at 463-2263.
Frazier said she first got to know Zach last summer when he approached her at a concession stand during a Little League game and asked her if she needed any help.
“He just came right up to me and asked me if I needed any help,” Frazier said. “That’s the type of kid he is. He has helped out at a number of events. He is just very willing to help, which is an amazing trait for a kid to have.”
“I have always felt that Zach is someone special,” his mother added. “Now, he is someone even more special.”