Today when I look at Samantha, better known as Sammie, I see an intelligent, beautiful, strong young woman with a bright future, who can accomplish anything she puts her mind to… but I may be a little biased, she is my daughter. It’s hard to believe as she enters the summer before her senior year in High School just a few short years ago we were sitting in the doctor’s office listening to some of the worst news a parent could ever hear “your daughter has cancer.” We’d all just watched my mom lose her battle with cancer a few years earlier, now I was terrified and couldn’t imagine what was running through Sammie’s mind.
As I sat there listening to the words, holding back the tears, trying to be strong so she, my son, and ex-wife can’t see I’m scared out of mind, all I could think was “how are we are going to get through this?” She already has celiacs disease, now cancer, then we were hit with more bad news Sammie has Sjogrens Syndrome. After we figured out what it was, a chronic autoimmune disorder, my brain was filled with “how much more can this little girl handle?” Even through my terror and misgivings I knew my focus had to be on Sammie, keeping her hopeful, positive, and taking it one day at a time. I know you’re thinking what positives and hope could there have been? Actually, there were quite a few, they found a treatment plan and it started working, my relationship with my kids grew stronger every day, and it even changed my relationship with my ex-wife, we became friends again.
Through the journey, in and out of the hospital, several amazing doctors and nurses, one person stood out as the most impactful for us all, Amy, Sammie’s Child Life Specialist. Amy came to see Sammie during her time at the hospital, spent time with her during chemo treatments, and above all gave us hope in a situation where hopelessness is easy. Amy also introduced us to the Make-A-Wish organization. When she first brought it up all I thought was “they told us Sam wasn’t terminal and Make-A-Wish is only for kids that are terminal, why is she suggesting this?” But, Amy explained to us the true mission of Make-A-Wish, it is not just for children with a terminal condition but for any child fighting a life-threatening illness. It took a little convincing, but we completed the initial paperwork and started the process for Sam to receive a wish.
Quickly after we turned in the paperwork, Sammie’s wish became a daily topic of conversation. Things like “Maybe I want to go to the set of PLL, meet a celebrity, be on a T.V. Show, shopping spree or go on a trip”, oh, by the way PLL is Pretty Little Liars, I didn’t know it either, don’t feel bad. Make-A-Wish told Sammie to come up with anything she wanted and they would try to make it happen. These fun conversations and excitement for what could be gave us all hope, the hope we all needed to stay positive. Long story short, Sammie decided she wanted to swim with the dolphins in Hawaii, we received the best news possible “the treatment was working, Sam was in remission.” So after Sam finished up her treatment, we went on the trip of a lifetime, and celebrated the medicine that is hope… all because of Make-A-Wish!
While we were in Hawaii we met several people also there on a wish trip. After hearing some of their stories we all felt like we were part of very special family and were overwhelmed with the life changes Make-A-Wish fosters. After we came home, all we could do was talk about it and Make-A-Wish. It was then I knew I wanted get involved with Make-A-Wish. As I move through my first year as a Wish Granter my hope as I meet new families, hear their stories, help grant those special children’s wishes is in some way the little bit I contribute makes a difference in their lives, brings them hope in their situation…just like Make-A-Wish did for us. Our wish experience will last forever and we will never stop thanking Make-A-Wish for giving us and others the chance to find hope in what feels hopeless.