In 1993, Kristen Howard was starting to grow tired of fighting her tough battle against cancer. She went from a fourteen year old looking for a solution to a bad stomachache to chemotherapy and surgery at Children’s Memorial Hospital. Kristen recalls long nights where her mother slept in an armchair next to her bed because she didn’t want to leave her side.
“Let me tell you, there were days when I didn’t want to fight anymore. As a parent now, I can’t even imagine what my mom felt when I said I didn’t want to fight anymore. But we kept fighting.” One of the things that kept Kristen fighting was the thought of her wish being granted by Make-A-Wish.
Kristen’s wish was to vacation with her mom. Make-A-Wish flew her and her mother to Hawaii where they enjoyed a week of volcanoes, warm beaches, and helicopter rides. Although Make-A-Wish offered to let Kristen bring a friend along on the trip, she refused.
“We had been fighting this battle together and we would use this trip to help us keep fighting.” With the help of her medical team, her mother, and the memory of her wish, Kristen did keep fighting.
24 years later Kristen still calls it an experience that she will never forget. Today, Kristen has turned that amazing memory into making wishes come true for other children just like her. With the help of her own children she volunteers as a wish granter through Make-A-Wish Illinois, supporting and enhancing the wish granting journey for children with life-threatening illnesses.
Kristen says that when she began to volunteer for Make-A-Wish it was a worrisome experience. “I wanted to make sure I made their wishes as magical as mine was,” Kristen said. She loves seeing the family-wide excitement that comes with a trip to Walt Disney World®
Resort, saying “sometimes it just takes a little Mickey or ice cream to give a child the strength to keep fighting like I did over 20 years ago.”
The impact of having a wish granted at such a vulnerable time in her life was not only in how it helped her recover more quickly from cancer. Her wish changed how she wanted to live her life, raise her children, and make a difference in her community.
Kristen recently shared her story at a World Wish Day Wish Family Reunion.