Karrina, a shy yet vibrant 18-year-old, had a tough year of cancer treatments in 2017. But her wish to go Thailand motivated her to keep going.
Karrina was diagnosed with cancer last year when she was 17, and life was anything but normal.
“She’s still going through getting scans every three months and she just barely at the beginning of this year started going back to school, eating more, and going back to her normal life,” Karrina’s mom Melissa said. “So it was very hard and this year it started getting a little better.”
Karrina was approached last year in Advocate Children’s Hospital in Park Ridge by the child life specialist who talked to her about Make-A-Wish and referred her to the organization. Karrina says that it’s hard to remember those times because hospital life is mostly “a blur” due to all of her medications and treatments. But she won’t forget the moment she was told her wish would be granted.
“I was pretty excited and it didn’t hit me until I actually went on my trip that I was actually going and getting a wish,” Karrina said. “And when we were planning it, it was really exciting for me to look forward to something after everything was finished.”
Karrina initially wanted to go to Greece but upon further research of Thailand’s elephants, her favorite animal, she knew she had to see them in person.
In early June, she hopped on a plane with her mother, brother, and father to finally see everything she had only seen through a computer screen.
“I never thought I would have that chance to actually go,” Karrina said. “And seeing the elephants was pretty amazing, being able to actually touch them, getting to see them in their natural habitat and bathing them and seeing the temples was pretty awesome.”
Melissa said the experience was so amazing that at times, it didn’t feel real.
“The whole time we were there everything was so surreal, from the moment we hopped on the airplane,” Melissa said. “Every time we would get up in the morning and go to sleep we would just wonder, ‘Wow this is actually happening right now.’”
Since her diagnosis, Karrina and her family have made it their mission to give back and get involved with organizations like Make-A-Wish and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, including joining the St. Jude Walk last year.
“I was still barely coming out of treatment last year,” Karrina said. “I was in a wheelchair so I didn’t have enough energy to actually walk, so I made a goal for this year to actually run the whole walk in September.”
Even through her treatment, Karrina was determined to come out strong to go on her trip and help others.
“Last year was really hard for her and she would always say ‘Once the year’s over I’m going to go on my trip next year and I plan to volunteer in the hospital more,” Melissa recalled. “So it did put a lot of things in perspective for her and me.”
Looking back on her tough year, Karrina says she is grateful for Make-A-Wish, because the trip gave her the hope she needed.
“Every time I wanted to give up I was like ‘No I’m going to go to Thailand next year,’” Karrina said, “and it’s going to be awesome.”