Gaston & Catawba

Single mom grateful for help as her son battles leukemia

On Jan. 30 this year, Lorrie Stillwell got the kind of news no parent wants to receive.

Her 6-year-old son, Zachary “Zack” Osborne, was diagnosed with leukemia. Zack is taking intensive chemotherapy and is scheduled to have eight radiation treatments starting in October. He is responding well to his treatments and is in remission.

This week when I visited Zack and his mom, the only sign of his illness was his lack of hair, as he seemed like a typical little boy, laughing, playing and enjoying “Sponge Bob Squarepants.”

“I like cars, go-carts, guns, and dirt bikes,” he said, proudly showing a few of his toy cars and trucks. He recently rode the go-carts at Concord's NASCAR Speed Park.

Though Zack normally feels fine, he must take care not to be jostled too much and to avoid infection. He has his blood checked regularly, and if his count is low, he must wear a mask when around other people. A teacher works with him at home and he receives daily visits from a nurse.

Lorrie, a single mom, appreciates the support of her family and friends – “a big help,” she said. When asked what kept her going, she credited God and her family and friends.

“I am very fortunate to have a family that is good to me and complete strangers be good to me,” she said. One woman, after learning of Zack's condition, came by with a bag of toys, and hidden deep in the bag was $100, Lorrie said.

Lorrie's uncle, Tom Harvey, a member of Grace Baptist Church in Mount Holly, held a barbecue recently at the church to help raise money for her expenses. The church is still accepting donations for the fund, handled through Bank of America.

Though Lorrie formerly worked as an office manager for a Concord chiropractor and at Sam's Club, she now devotes all her time to her son's care. They both live with her mom, Judy Stillwell, in Dallas.

Zack will be in treatment for three years from the time he was diagnosed. After radiation, he still will need monthly treatments of chemotherapy, after which he will be watched over the next 10 years. If he continues to improve, he hopes to return to kindergarten at Costner Elementary School.

Though no one wants to hear that their child has something like leukemia, Lorrie is counting her blessings. “What he has is curable,” she said. “There is always somebody worse than you.”