A weight has been lifted of Zack Harrison’s shoulders.
His two-year battle with cancer has been capped off with a life-changing experience and a positive prognosis.
With the help of Make-A-Wish Canada, Harrison took a zero-gravity flight that allowed him to feel the sensation of weightlessness. He described the experience as life changing.
“I would say it’s like a release,” Zack said. “Doing it made me realize ‘OK, I’m fine now, I’m doing better and this is my reward.’ It felt like a gift at the end.’”
On Sept. 15, 2020, he was diagnosed with B-cell lymphoblastic lymphoma. After that, he was in and out of the hospital for months, as his treatment was complicated by being allergic to one of the chemo drugs.
“I got a whole list of other problems from it,” Zack said. “Then I lost all my physical strength.”
At the time, his oncologist and nurse clinician said he would qualify for Make-A-Wish, but everything was on hold because of the pandemic.
After over a year of waiting, a representative got in touch with Zack in early 2022. He submitted an application and a few months later was told his wish would be granted. His health was also improving.
He flew down to Florida for his Zero-G Experience flight on Oct. 23. Before taking off, Zack said he felt anticipation rather than nerves.
After flying to 24,000 feet in a modified plane, the aircraft flies at a steep 45-degree angle. Next, the plane pushes over the top of a “parabolic arc” and a zero-gravity phase follows for 20-30 seconds. This maneuver happens 15 times over the course of a flight.
“It’s hard to explain, but it was super cool,” Zack said. “You feel yourself float up. And then you just walk around like you’re bouncing.”
His mom, Kim Harrison, said the trip – which included a visit to the Kennedy Space Centre – was icing on the cake.
“Knowing that he could physically do it and be OK, and even today watching him play soccer and just having that faith that he’s going to be okay – it’s a huge, huge relief,” she said.
Zack is expected to complete his treatment in March.
“This year is my best year so far since [my diagnosis],” he said. “I feel great again.”
Currently a student at Ecole Handsworth Secondary, Zack said his future plans include studying marine biology at university, running a mile in under six minutes and getting a girlfriend.
Make-A-Wish Canada is celebrating its 40th anniversary in 2023, granting more than 37,000 wishes since its inception.
If you’d like to experience the sensation of weightlessness in a plane, Zero-G Experiences start at US$9,070, according to the company’s website.