As a middle schooler in 1995, Qudsia was diagnosed with cancer just as she was getting ready to transition into high school. For a while, life seemed “dark and gloomy” for her – some days were better than others, but all she wanted was to feel like a normal kid. Her illness and the sadness it brought not only to her, but to her parents and five siblings, regularly left her mentally and emotionally exhausted.
Then Make-A-Wish granted her wish for her own computer, and her life changed forever.
Now 36 years old and living in Lombard, Qudsia has long since overcome her illness and is a wish granting volunteer with Make-A-Wish Illinois. She remembers the kindness and lasting impact her wish had on her, and is now seeking to give other wish children the same meaningful experience she had.
“At first I was too sick to be excited, but then I got really, really excited,” Qudsia said, recalling how she felt when she learned she qualified for a wish. “The whole neighborhood came to our house to offer to help [with determining a wish] – a lot of them wanted me to wish for a swimming pool, because our street didn’t have one … But I wanted a computer for high school, because I was so concerned with keeping up [academically] with other kids my age.”
Qudsia remembers the day her wish was granted, and doubts she’ll ever forget it.
“Everything was so exciting,” she said. “I kind of expected [my wish granters] to just turn up with a box and say, ‘Here’s your computer.’ … I didn’t expect all the extra stuff, the presentation and the desk they gave me to go with it. They really brought a wow factor I wasn’t expecting.”
Qudsia said one of the biggest impacts her wish had was the joy she had sharing the computer with her siblings. She hated seeing them sad, and the computer was a “huge, happy thing” that all six of them could enjoy together.
“I spent so much time on it every day after school,” Qudsia said with a laugh. “I was very protective of it. Eventually I had to let it go when I went to college because it was outdated, which was something I didn’t foresee. That was sad, but we all had a great time with it.”
As Qudsia grew up and eventually recovered from her illness, she felt like her relationship with Make-A-Wish never ended. The effect the organization had on her and her family – the happiness it brought them when they needed it most – stuck with her, and prompted her to reach out to see how she could get involved. When she was told that volunteering would be the best way to give her time to Make-A-Wish, she attended the Make-A-Wish Community Summit in fall 2017, a gathering of volunteers, staff and event organizers, where she discovered a community of wish alumni that she hadn’t known about before.
"It felt like it was a community that understands,” Qudsia said. “It’s hard sometimes [for wish alumni] to find people who can really relate to [their] experiences … It’s almost cathartic, having people to talk to about it.”
Volunteering has been amazingly fulfilling work for Qudsia, who is currently in the process of granting her first wish – a specialized therapy room.
“It’s so much more work than I thought it would be, but that makes it so satisfying,” Qudsia said. “The volunteers who helped with my wish were angels who made it look so easy!”
As a wish alum, Qudsia knows first-hand how life-changing and joyful a wish come true can be for a child with a critical illness. She looks forward to spreading that joy to children who need it today, one wish at a time.
“It makes [wish children] feel so special in the midst of a bad situation, and that feeling never, ever goes away,” Qudsia explained. “Make-A-Wish is part of my history, and as crazy as it seems, they helped me see my illness positively – I look back on it and only see the good things that came out of it … [Make-A-Wish] was always in my heart. It never left me.”