MU business school hosts fundraiser for student diagnosed with cancer
COLUMBIA — The University of Missouri's Crosby Master of Business Administration Association hosted a fundraiser Saturday for an MU graduate student who has cancer.
Zach Heath, 29, was diagnosed back in October with stage IV colon cancer. His classmates in the M.B.A. program wanted to help him pay his medical bills, which is why they decided to hold the fundraiser, just two days before he is set to start another round of chemotherapy.
"When they first told me [about the fundraiser], I was shocked even at the idea," Heath said.
Heath's classmates sent him an email with a detailed itinerary of everything the fundraiser at Stephens Lake Amphitheater would have, including face painting, live bands, moonbounces, a beer garden, a food truck and a costume contest.
Upon receiving the email, Heath said, "I was like, 'Oh my god.' Like, this is like a very substantial event."
Heath said members of the Crosby M.B.A. Association spent months trying to get the city to allow them to have the event, but eventually it all worked out.
"It turned out to be a perfect day," he said, referring to the 70-degree weather.
While fighting cancer, Heath has performed his MU graduate assistant duties, run a biotech start-up and managed to never miss a day of class.
"I've kind of adopted this 'catch me if you can' mantra for cancer, and I just figured that whenever I feel good, I'm going to do everything I can," Heath said.
"My blog has a huge gladiator theme to it. Instead of 'cancer fighter' I went with gladiator. It's my favorite movie, and I just like the connotation a little bit better," Heath said.
Staying busy and remaining positive have been helpful in Heath's recovery, he said.
"I feel like when you get dealt a bad hand, you can either accept it and move on and deal with it, or you can sit and wallow," he said.
He continued, "I'm not the person to sit still, and so I decided, 'OK. If cancer wants to pick a fight, let's do this.'"
And it is that positive attitude that makes him an inspiration to everyone around him.
"He's a lot of fun. He laughs a lot. His personality has not changed a bit since he's had cancer, and so that's great to see. He's certainly got a great attitude about it," classmate and Crosby M.B.A. Association Vice President of Finance Ben Beussink said.
Beussink is confident that Heath will beat cancer.
"He's gonna pull through it. No question," Beussink said.
Heath is thankful to have support from friends, family and even people he doesn't know.
"I still can't believe that all this is for little ol' me, but I couldn't be more appreciative of it," he said.
Through his journey, Heath has made friends with other people who also have cancer. He wants to bring awareness to the idea that cancer can happen to anyone: young or old.
"One of the things I heard at the beginning was 'but you're so young' or 'but you're too young to have cancer,' he said. "There's a lot of people in their twenties or thirties that have cancer, and go through these things."
And Heath has advice for anyone who is going through it.
"You can win. I mean, it's not a death sentence, and it's a sentence, not a story. And you can write your own story," Heath said. "I think the attitude that you have about it makes the biggest difference in everything."
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