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updated: 4/4/2014 6:07 PM

Buffalo Grove High School grad loses fight with cancer

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  • Andrew Zint is blessed by Pope Benedict on a 2011 trip to Rome with his family

      Andrew Zint is blessed by Pope Benedict on a 2011 trip to Rome with his family
    Courtesy of the Zint family

 

By Eileen O. Daday

Daily Herald correspondent

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Back in 2012, when Andrew Zint accepted his diploma at Buffalo Grove High School, his classmates gave him a long, heartfelt standing ovation.

Their response surprised Andrew, his mother said, but not school administrators.

"Students became very compassionate for what Andrew was going through and really rallied behind him," says Robert Hartwig, associate principal at Buffalo Grove High School. "He had a great sense of humor and attitude, and students really admired him."

Andrew died Tuesday after a nearly five-year battle with pediatric brain cancer. The Arlington Heights resident was 19.

During his sophomore year, Andrew was diagnosed with a medulloblastoma, which is the most common malignant tumor of the central nervous system in children, accounting for 15 to 20 percent of pediatric brain tumors.

Over the next five years, he endured rounds of chemotherapy and tried five different clinical trials, of which just one round consisted of 12 infusions.

"We really put a lot of hope into those clinical trials," his father, Tony, said Friday. "We really thought he was going to beat it."

Andrew's extensive treatments forced him to miss one year of school, but he kept up with tutoring. By senior year he was able to return and attend classes and his senior prom, and ultimately graduate with highest honors.

"Through it all, he didn't want the focus to be on him," said his mother, Susan. "He wanted the focus to be on getting well, going to school and living his life."

More treatments would delay his dream of attending college, but last fall he enrolled at Marquette University to pursue a degree in biomedical engineering. He withdrew midway into his first semester, however, to start another clinical trial.

One of the ways he managed his difficult treatments was through music, his father said. In particular, he followed the punk rock band Rise Against, whose lead singer, Tim McIlrath of Arlington Heights, met with Andrew and encouraged him to write lyrics for one of their songs.

Andrew also received support from the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Volunteers there organized a visit to Japan -- Andrew loved Japanese anime -- but the 2011 tsunami intervened.

Instead, acting on another wish of Andrew's, foundation members arranged a trip to Rome for his family in October 2011. They toured the city and Andrew capped his visit by getting a personal blessing by Pope Benedict XVI in St. Peter's Square.

"Since he was 2 years old, Andrew wanted to meet the ruler of the world," Susan Zint said of her son. "He thought the pope was the next closest thing."

Volunteers with Bear Necessities Pediatric Cancer Foundation also arranged for Andrew to attend a Chicago Blackhawks game and meet right winger Patrick Kane. The outing, in January, was Andrew's last trip out of his home.

Besides his mother and father, Andrew is survived by his sister, Emily.

Visitation will be held from 4 to 9 p.m. Saturday, April 5, at Glueckert Funeral Home, 1520 N. Arlington Heights Road in Arlington Heights.

A 2 p.m. funeral will be held Sunday at St. Gregory's Episcopal Church, 815 Wilmot Road in Deerfield.

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