Gabby has a smile that is sure to light any room. But when her mom started to see that smile less often, she became concerned.
“She always has a smile on her face so we knew something was wrong,” said Gabby’s mom, Maria, who noticed her daughter was losing energy and had bumps on her throat.
Gabby’s family went to doctors searching for answers, which came with the diagnosis of Langerhans-Cell Histiocytosis, a rare disease that affects the presence of cells in the body.
“She was going through treatment at Phoenix Children’s Hospital when we heard about Make-A-Wish Arizona and were referred by her social worker,” said Maria.
“Gabby loves Disney characters and princesses because of the shows she watches on television, so she wished to meet them in person at their ‘home’ in Disneyland,” she continued. “Gabby started jumping up and down when her wish granters told us her wish was coming true. She was so excited!”
With her trip planned, Gabby’s family was counting down the days to her wish. But in October, the unthinkable happened - Gabby had a relapse and had to endure another round of chemotherapy. They decided to postpone the wish so Gabby could focus on getting well.
“She is so young, so I think it was even harder on us as parents than it was for her,” said Maria. “We felt so helpless but we prayed a lot because you just have to be positive.”
Looking forward to her wish gave Gabby and her family inspiration to get better. They talked about it regularly during her treatment and were super excited to share the news with Gabby that her wish was “back on” once she was cleared to travel.
“Our family had never been to Disneyland before, so this opportunity helped us get away from the hospital and it was something we really needed,” said Maria.
“Make-A-Wish Arizona picked us up in a limo and Southwest Airlines said a special shout-out for Gabby over the airport speaker. It made us feel really special, and like we mattered.”
After arriving in California, they headed to Disneyland and California Adventure.
“I think her favorite part was hugging Minnie Mouse and having breakfast with her. We were there until nearly 9 p.m. the first day!” said Maria. “I thought she would be tired, but she was so excited to walk and hop around.”
And Gabby had a daily routine that continued for the rest of the week.
“She loved getting her face painted almost every day and I lost count of how many churros she had!” said Maria with a laugh.
“Seeing Gabby this happy after everything she’s been through was amazing.”
The next few days, her family also spent time going to the beach, Universal Studios, and Knots Berry Farm.
“She liked the water rides a lot and watching the fireworks,” said Maria. “On the airplane, she told me ‘mom, I want to go home.’ I said that we were going home but she just shook her head because she feels like Disneyland is her home now.”
Since her wish, Gabby’s family continues to hope for good news and clear scans in her future. Her next adventure will be starting preschool this August.
“She still asks me to look at pictures from our trip so she can see her friends Anna and Elsa,” said Maria. “Even though she is young, I know my daughter will remember and treasure this experience forever.”