Cherry blossom season in Japan is one of the most sought-after experiences for tourists around the world. But, for wish kid Jacob, a visit to see those blooms in person meant something even more special – the end to three years of cancer treatment.
“Treatment for lymphoma devoured years of my life,” said Jacob, who waited nearly three years for his wish due to medical issues. “I was always too sick to travel and going through chemotherapy made me feel especially awful, but looking forward to my wish made each day a little easier.”
Over the years, Jacob never wavered on his wish choice, often ordering Japanese food and watching anime movies in the hospital to pass the time. Then, in October of last year, Jacob received the greatest news – his scans were clean, and he would be able to travel for his wish in the spring.
“The wish definitely became a part of his healing,” said Marla, Jacob’s mom. “Having cancer and starting high school at the same time was very hard for Jacob but thinking about his wish made him want to get better and stay healthy.”
“Receiving the itinerary and actually holding something tangible in my hands made it feel real. After all this time, my wish was finally going to happen,” Jacob said.
And it happened in a big way.
“The architecture was unreal and the cherry blossoms were everywhere,” said Jacob. “They were the most visually iconic thing and you have to be there to experience it. I spent the whole time looking up with my mouth open!”
In addition to the cherry blossoms, Jacob and his family visited a zoo to see pandas, explored the anime district, had a spa day at a Japanese bath house, rode the bullet train, and tried some new, adventurous foods.
“Takoyaki balls are filled with squid rolled up in batter. I put sauce on it and it was delicious, I ate those a few times throughout the trip,” said Jacob, who admits he wasn’t a fan of everything and some Japanese foods, like raw eggs and pickled plums, were definitely an acquired taste.
Jacob also enjoyed visiting many historical sites, shrines and temples. “Asia is culturally linked to so many old traditions. They’ve been doing things the same way for years and it was surprising to see giant statues that are thousands of years old still so well intact,” said Jacob.
One of the best parts for his mom was watching Jacob’s energy level throughout the entire trip.
“He walked every day and I saw this new zest and energy for life in him that hadn’t been there before,” said Marla. “One day near the end of our trip, we sat in a Japanese anime style café and Jacob was grinning ear-to-ear. As we watched him, images of the last three years flashed through my mind. Seeing him so happy and engaged in something he really loved meant everything. Instead of hospitals, now this time in our lives will be marked by memories of cherry blossoms, sunshine, gardens, laughter, and peace.”
Jacob brought home a few souvenirs, but he also left Japan with a new sense of confidence.
“Jacob healed from his wish. It helped him believe in himself,” said Marla. “I hope this attitude will be how he approaches everything in his life from now on.”
Jacob wasn’t the only one who benefited from his wish experience.
“We all went through Jacob’s sickness together and experiencing his wish marked an end to this phase of our lives and gave us all a new outlook,” she continued. “I don’t think there are appropriate words to fully express our gratitude. Jacob’s wish brought healing and peace that we have not had in a long time.”
Today, Jacob is cancer-free and doing well. He sees doctors every three months for routine appointments and he’s currently a senior in high school. Yet, he continues to think of his wish almost daily.
“Even if a kid’s wish doesn’t seem that big or interesting to you, know that it means everything to them. It’s one of the only things that got me excited during treatment and sharing my wish with my closest family members was awesome. I think Make-A-Wish is one of the best things a kid with a critical illness can experience.”