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Stillwater Student Faces Life-Threatening Cancer With Song

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(credit: CBS) John Lauritsen
John Lauritsen is a reporter from Montevideo, Minn. He joined WCCO-...
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STILLWATER, Minn. (WCCO) – Spend some time with Zach Sobiech, a senior at Stillwater High School, and you’ll find yourself surrounded by music.

Music is Zach’s release, and he began playing guitar when he was 12.

But when Zach was 13, he was diagnosed with a life-threatening form of cancer, osteosarcoma. Doctors then told him the outlook was getting worse. The cancer had spread to Zach’s lungs, and they gave him until this May to live.

“The day I found out…it was a nightmare kind of thing,” Zach said. “You just didn’t really want to accept it. You are in complete denial.”

But his denial turned to determination — a determination to make the most of the time he has left. And with that has come something extraordinary.

Zach wrote and recorded a song called “Clouds.” He wrote the song as a thank you to everyone who stood by him during his battle with cancer. (Watch the video below.)

“That’s me expressing my feelings, you know” Zach said. “Every time I listen to it I go back to yeah, that’s right, all these people are here for me.”

The song has more than 2 million hits on YouTube. And listening to the lyrics, it sounds like a goodbye.

“And we’ll go up, up, up/ But I’ll fly a little higher/ We’ll go up in the clouds/ because the view is a little nicer,” the lyrics read.

Zach’s mother, Laura Sobiech, said the first time she heard “Clouds” she cried, not because of what the future holds, but because of how proud she is of Zach.

“I know what he’s saying,” Laura said. “To see how it has affected so many other people has been really incredible.”

She added: “I was in awe. I had no idea that was what was going on.”

The song has become so popular that music giant BMI flew Zach and his family to New York City and signed him to a deal last month. As exciting as that is, Zach’s heart is at home.

He has performed the National Anthem at Stillwater basketball games with friends Sammy Brown and Reed Redmond. The trio also makes up the band A Firm Handshake, which performed at the Varsity Theater to help raise money for cancer research.

“With my situation you don’t have time to be sad or angry or anything. You have to just go because you don’t have that much time,” Zach said.

So Zach is doing what he can with what time he has — creating awareness for osteosarcoma and telling his story through music.

Through all the chemo and surgeries, there is one thing cancer can never take away from Zach: His legacy, music has touched the hearts of millions.

“It’s not that we don’t think about the future, because we do,” Laura said. “But we don’t live there. We live here. That’s where we keep it.”

Zach says he’s hoping to defy what the doctors told him and beat his cancer. He’s also started a fund for children’s cancer research.

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