Zachary Stumpf, left, shares a moment with his parents, Jennifer and Philip, and brother, Clayton.
ALTON — Zachary Stumpf wasn’t planning to spend Christmas in a California hospital, but that’s what the Alton teen had to do when a trip to Disneyland didn’t go as planned.
Zach, 13, was diagnosed in October 2013 with pre-B cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Through a referral, the Make-A-Wish Foundation granted his wish to go to Disneyland. The Stumpf family -— Zach; mom, Jennifer; dad, Phillip; and 8-year-old brother, Clayton — was scheduled to arrive Dec. 17 in California.
But the trip was cut short before it barely started.
“We wanted this trip for him so he could just leave everything behind. But his white blood count dropped,” said his mom, Jennifer. Pre-B cell leukemia overproduces cancerous, immature white blood cells, which inhibits the production of normal cells.
The drop landed Zach in Children’s Hospital Orange County.
Rounds of chemotherapy and home treatments haven’t crushed Zach’s spirit, even though “he’s dealt with more than most adults have,” Stumpf said. And neither did this latest setback.
“He took it like a trooper, even though his dad and brother had to come back home and it was just he and I in California,” Stumpf said. “We couldn’t be home for Christmas or New Year’s.”
She and Zach returned to Alton Jan. 2, where she reported that Zach’s white blood count was on the rise.
Stumpf said the family was “kind of numb” when Zach was diagnosed with pre-B cell leukemia.
“It’s something you don’t want to hear. But after that first day, we accepted it and said, ‘let’s get this (treatment) done.’”
The teen now is in a maintenance phase, going to the hospital once a month for a check-up and chemo. For the next two-and-a-half-years, Zach will also take two pills — one nightly and one weekly.
A typical teen in every other way, Zach said he especially was looking forward to the rollercoaster Cars Land as well as seeing Legoland and Sea World. The family will get another chance to take the trip next summer.
“We just want for him to be a teenager and hang out with his friends and do the things he likes to do,” his mom said.
Wishes like Zachary’s are made possible through the Make-A-Wish Foundation with the financial support of individual, community and corporate donors. The organization says it is grateful to area volunteer wish granters Norma Glazebrook, Dennis Dentelman and Kathryn Eames.
For more information on how to get involved, visit www.illinois.wish.org.