I was always a healthy child, never having an illness that kept me out of school for more than a few days. My diagnosis came as a complete shock to my family and me. Following a biopsy, I was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a form of bone cancer. In that moment, I knew my life would be filled with pain, fear and struggle. But what surprised me was how much joy, peace and support would come from this journey, and what it would feel like to have a wish come true.
My treatment included four surgeries, including one major surgery that removed six inches of my right fibula, and many rounds of high dose chemotherapy. Most of my 13th year was spent at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt. During one of my admissions, I was feeling especially sick when I heard a knock on the door. In came a woman with a huge smile on her face as she introduced herself as my wish granter from Make-A-Wish Middle Tennessee.
My mind was immediately taken off the pain, and I was surprised to learn that I was going to receive a wish. In that moment, I gained my “light at the end of the tunnel.” I suddenly had a new focus. On my worst days, I would sit in my hospital room with my mom and talk about all of the potential wishes I could choose. Who I could meet, where I could go, what I could buy. All I knew for sure is that I wanted my wish to include my family.
Most people did not realize that when I was diagnosed with a life-threatening illness, my family was diagnosed as well. Their lives changed drastically along with mine. My mom moved into the hospital with me; my brother moved in with my grandparents; and my dad’s commute to work became much longer as he added daily trips to the hospital to bring my mom and me dinner and drop off my mail.
At the time, I was hospitalized in the myelosuppression unit due to my weakened immune system caused by the chemotherapy. My brother was unable to visit due to his young age, and my family was not able to spend much time together. I finally decided that my wish would be to go to Walt Disney World® Resort. My wish meant more to me than just a trip; it meant family time that had been truly missed.
Our trip to Walt Disney World® was truly unforgettable. My family and I were escorted to the front of every park ride, and we stayed at the Give Kids the World Village. Any expectation I had for the trip was far surpassed. We made so many amazing memories together, and there was truly no better way to celebrate being cancer-free than going on the trip of a lifetime. I will forever be grateful to Make-A-Wish Middle Tennessee for the hope it provided me during my most difficult moments.
Years later, I was able to complete a community outreach internship with Make-A-Wish Middle Tennessee. My experiences came full circle as I was now able to help raise the money needed to grant the wishes of other children with life-threatening illnesses. This internship gave me the opportunity to share my story of hope with so many people. My social club at Lipscomb University also joined with me and raised the money to grant another child’s wish to go to Walt Disney World® Resort.
Today I am twenty-five years old and am thankful to say that I have been in remission for 11 years. I am working at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt as a Certified Child Life Specialist. In this role, I am able to help children cope with hospitalization through family support; distraction; developmentally appropriate preparation prior to procedures and diagnosis teaching through the use of medical play. I thank God for my healing and the honor of being able to reach out to patients and families at their time of greatest need.
Although my journey has not always been easy, I would not change one moment. I look forward to continuing my journey and seeing what God has in store for the years to come.