In 1993, there was little that would make Anna, 15, happy. She had been diagnosed with osteosarcoma in her leg, which lead to surgery and months of chemotherapy. She lost her hair. She had to wear a large leg brace. She did not feel like herself.
And then Make-A-Wish Arizona came into her life.
“I was just starting to feel better when my volunteers came to speak to me about receiving a wish,” said Anna. “It really kind of turned things around as it gave me something to focus on, something to think about and plan.”
Anna decided she would wish to go to Hawaii because she had never been before and she loved the beach.
“I had been to California but I knew Hawaii would be so much better,” said Anna. Her doctors would not immediately approve her for a wish due to her leg not healing as fast as they had hoped but even with small setbacks and knowing she had to wait, the wish gave her hope.
“I worked pretty hard those few months and when the date for my wish came closer, my volunteers created a countdown calendar for me so I could count the last 30 days down until I left,” said Anna. “I think the anticipation of the wish was almost as exciting as the wish itself!”
Anna was heading to Hawaii with two aunts and her best friend – special wish travel arrangements that were made due to a brand-new baby sister in the family.
“My mom had just had my baby sister so my parents spoke to Make-A-Wish and they approved to have my aunts go and to allow me to bring my best friend,” said Anna. “To go with my friend was so special because she wasn’t even living in Phoenix at that time but she was still the one person I could really talk to about my feelings and what I was going through. It made the trip extra special.”
In Hawaii, the “girls” had no specific plans. They had beach days and went to fun restaurants, they shopped and toured the island to see the sights. According to Anna, the trip worked to cure her of her mood, allowing her to concentrate on the positive.
“What I remember most is not what we did particularly but that everywhere we went, we were treated like VIPs. When we first arrived at the hotel, every member of the staff was on site to greet me and gave me a lei until I couldn’t move my neck,” said Anna. “It made me feel so special. My wish really pulled me out of my anger and my sadness. It was the one bright spot of my long medical journey.”
Anna said she returned to Arizona with that happy feeling and made the most of the rest of her year, being more outgoing and putting herself out there to concentrate on her health and being the best possible person she could be.
“It definitely helped me turn a corner to go back to my life before cancer,” said Anna. “I so loved the organization, I decided to volunteer when I went to college and became a wish granter myself.”
Today, after getting married and having two kids, she hasn’t found the time to continue to volunteer but she still thinks about her wish regularly.
“I still find Make-A-Wish so inspirational. I am always quick to share my story when people bring up the organization and I think it surprises some people that I had a wish,” said Anna. “I shared because I know it is a story of survival – a story of what hope can do for a child when they truly need it.” Anna’s medical journey has continued.
She endures regular treatments for her leg and believes that her wish has helped her through it.
“My wish just really gave me a way to look at everything I’m going through, past, present and future, with a more positive outlook,” said Anna. “It truly was exactly what I needed when I needed it most.”