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Overcoming the Odds: Zippy’s Journey

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DEFOREST (WKOW) -- Life can change in a moment. For the Szepieniec family, that moment came in February of 2014.

"We went from a basketball game Friday night to Monday being diagnosed, having chemotherapy. All in one weekend," remembers Amy Szepieniec.

After a basketball game, Amy's son, Adam, was fatigued and complaining of abdominal pain. He was quickly diagnosed with ALL Leukemia. The doctors started chemotherapy immediately.

"Devastating, absolutely devastating," Amy says of receiving the diagnosis. "Noone wants to hear that at any age, but to have let alone your child is a very, very difficult time."

The energetic kid, known as Zippy, wen through a couple months of chemo, followed by radiation.

"The majority of that I was in the hospital feeling like absolute garbage because radiation isn't fun," says Adam.

Still, the 11-year old faced the diagnosis head on.

"I remember telling him, 'You can stay home.' He said, 'no, no, no. I want to go to school.' So, he did. Absolutely amazing," marvels Amy.

Zippy's positivity was rewarded with a fortunate break. His nine-year-old sister, Anna, proved a perfect match for a bone marrow transplant, which eliminated the need for three years of treatment.

Months after his diagnosis, Adam's doctors declared him in remission. So, less than a year after diagnosis, he returned to the athletic competition he so missed. As he hit high school, his love deepened for football.

"I've always really enjoyed football," Adam smiles. "From fourth grade, I knew that was what I really wanted to do as long as I could."

Adam was starting at cornerback for DeForest's varsity as a junior. He was named second-team all-conference two straight years. His senior year ended with a trip to Camp Randall Stadium and the state championship game.

"It was, I would say, life changing. It was a really big moment for me."

Yes, life can change in a moment. Another of those life-changing moments came in the final second of a one-point game as the kid once visited in the hospital by football heroes, became one by intercepting the final pass to claim a state championship.

"The crowd cheering. It's loud. Everyone is just jumping up and down. It was a really, really cool moment."

As Adam celebrated with his teammates, he wasn't thinking about cancer. The disease had taught him to appreciate all of life's moments.

"Everything happens for a reason. I think me getting that sickness really made me who I am."

The senior in high school was recently named the Wisconsin recipient of the National High School Spirit of Sport Award.

Lance Veeser

Sports Director, 27 News

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