Nichole was 16 years old when her wish was granted in 2004. The wish came at a time when she had been in and out of the hospital for nine months battling bone cancer.
“When I was first approached by Make-A-Wish Arizona, my first reaction was to say no, thanks,” says Nichole. “My tumors were responding to treatment and my complications were being managed, but I was just sick and tired. I wanted to curl up in bed, just get through this and move on.”
As Nichole continued with 18 rounds of chemo and surgeries to replace bones in her legs, a staffer at the hospital pointed out that maybe having a wish would give her something to look forward to. Facing a long road to recovery, Nichole decided she had a good point.
“I didn’t have any famous people I wanted to meet, but I decided I’d like to go on a trip with my family. I’d never been to Hawaii, so that’s what I picked!” Nichole said.
Five months after her treatment ended and she had completed enough physical therapy to be able to walk again without a walker, Nichole, her mom and dad and her 6-year-old brother jetted off to Maui for a her wish and a week of celebration, luaus, surf and sand.
“It gave my family a chance to regroup,” she says. “We celebrated after my chemo ended, but I still had so much physical therapy ahead of me at that point. In Hawaii, we were really able to celebrate that the worst was over.”
Being together on the trip was especially important to Nichole and her family because her brother wasn’t able to visit her during the long months she spent in the hospital due to concerns about germs on the oncology floor. Her parents had traded back and forth between being at home with her brother and being with her; months of juggling and time apart, with very few opportunities to be together as a whole family.
“I couldn’t have imagined choosing a wish that didn’t include my whole family,” Nichole says. “Sharing the trip with them made everything more special.”
Looking back, Nichole sees her wish as a real turning point, a milestone.
“It felt like life was starting again; like we were getting back to normal," said Nichole. "I can look back and point to that time as being the start of a new chapter.”
Nichole finished high school and continued on to college at Arizona State University. Last summer, she finished her PhD in Community Resources, with an emphasis in Tourism. Today, she teaches hospitality and tourism as a member of the faculty at Eastern Illinois University.