Zach Lederer

Zach Lederer (February 14, 2012)

It is an image that has inspired hundreds, if not thousands.

Zach Lederer, 18, stares directly and defiantly into the camera, arms up and flexed in a muscle pose, surrounded by the medical accouterments of his hospital bed.

He had just come out of brain surgery at Johns Hopkins, during which doctors had removed 80 to 90 percent of a cancerous tumor, a tumor that had shocked Zach, his family and his doctors. Zach had already beaten cancer, seven years ago. Doctors had already watched radiation reduce a walnut-sized tumor in 11-year-old Zach's brain to nothing, to the point that he had been deemed cancer-free.

Zach had already won this fight.

Submit a Letter to the Editor for the Laurel Leader, Columbia Flier and Howard County Times

But last month, despite medical odds, the cancer had come back, wrenching the Ellicott City native out of his freshman year at theUniversity of Maryland, College Park and dragging him into another fight for his life.

"It was like a slap in the face," said his father, John Lederer, of the diagnosis.

In his bed that day, Jan. 25, Zach was out of it, still drugged and groggy and just an hour out of surgery. But he had it in his mind that he wanted to reach out to all the people he knew were waiting on news about his condition, to show them he was strong.

"In case you were worrying, I'm going to make these muscles and make every ounce of worry in your mind go away," he recalled thinking Saturday, on a couch in his parents home on Frederick Road.

His selfless goal worked, and to an amazing degree.

Posted on Facebook, the photo inspired Zach's cousins, Joey O'Dwyer and Jon Feldman, of Reisterstown, to mimic Zach's muscle pose. They wrote that "Tebowing," the genuflecting pose made famous by NFL quarterback Tim Tebow, was out, and that "Zaching" was in.

Other people began striking the pose as well, and Zach's classmate from Centennial High, Raymond Kim, created a Tumblr page to collect all the images in one place.

They kept pouring in, and "Zaching" officially took off.

'Big in Greece and Russia'

In the last few weeks, Kim's site has exploded with images of people Zaching, submitted from all over the country, and all over the world.

"It's big in Greece and Russia," Zach said, with a laugh.

Images have been submitted by famous comedians (Dane Cook and Adam Carolla), athletes (Brendon Ayanbadejo and Torrey Smith), actors (Craig Robinson), politicians (including Zach's grandmother, Del. Liz Bobo), members of the military, local radio personalities, entire sports teams from high schools and colleges around the country, and practically the entire athletics department of the University of Maryland, College Park (where Zach is a manager for the men's basketball team).

There are also shots of little kids, of college students in their dorms and — most important to Zach — of other people battling cancer.

The "Zaching" craze, as it were, has snowballed into a mountain of positive vibes, of support and good will directed not only toward Zach, but toward everyone battling cancer.

While Zach still has a long battle in front of him — he will likely begin radiation and chemotherapy treatment soon, and has taken the semester off — the "Zaching" phenomenon has helped his family, including his parents and his younger sister, Julia, deal with the immensity of what Zach is facing, they said.

It has helped them move past the shock and focus on beating the cancer once again.