When the Taylor family moved to their new home, they hoped their daughter, Lily, would find some best friends in her new neighbors.
As the little girl next door, Lily had much in common with Clara. Unfortunately, one thing they also ended up having in common was cancer.
“Clara had battled cancer when she was very young as an infant. I remember saying to my wife how lucky we were to have Lily be healthy, to never have to go through what Clara and her family went through,” said Brad, Lily’s father.
Just three months later, Lily’s parents took her to the hospital after she developed a high fever. First they were told was an ear infection, then they learned Lily had leukemia.
“Our lives changed in 12 hours. We went from a normal, happy family celebrating Christmas, to battling one of the hardest things we’d ever experience,” said Brad. “After it sank in, we called Clara’s family because we knew that they had been in our situation and would be a great support.”
Following the diagnosis, Lily was required to spend a month in the hospital. Once she could go home, she began outpatient treatment. Her days consisted of visiting the hospital for treatments and being confined to her home, away from her friend Clara, to keep her safe from infection.
It was during her outpatient treatment, that Lily and family were told she qualified for a wish. Lily debated what her one true wish could be, but ultimately decided to go to Disneyland because she loves Frozen, all the Disney princesses, and the beach. Most important, Lily wished to go to Disneyland with Clara.
“Lily is an only child. The closest person she has to a sister is Clara. Because of the age Clara was when she was diagnosed, Clara didn’t have a wish, so Lily’s wish would become a wish for them both,” said Brad. “We knew Lily would have so much more fun with Clara there.”
With the wish trip planned, Lily still had a few months of treatments before they could leave.
“There were times when the treatments and procedures were so painful I had to hold Lily down. I can’t stress how hard it is to have to watch your daughter hurt like that,” Brad continued. “I would just whisper in her ear that soon we would be at Disneyland. It gave us all something to look forward to.”
When it was time to go, Lily's family and Clara were surprised with their fun limo ride to the airport, but it was the time together at Disneyland, when Lily and Clara were able to meet princesses Elsa and Anna and receive autographed books, that they really remember.
“Lily and Clara loved riding the rollercoasters and all the special treatment they received. Everyone was so amazing. The girls would come off a ride talking about how much they loved it, and the Disney staff would let them get right back on,” said Brad.
Along with Disneyland, Lily went to Knotts Berry Farm. She was so excited to meet Snoopy and was surprised when he gave her a little Snoopy of her own, which she still has today.
“One special part of the trip was going to the beach. That was our first family vacation before Lily got sick, and she kept saying she wanted to go play in the sand again,” said Brad.
Today, Lily is in maintenance. She has been cancer free for months but must continue treatments until April 2020. Her family often looks back on their trip and are overwhelmed with gratitude for the experience.
"The memories we made will last a lifetime, much like Lily and Clara's friendship, we hope," said Brad.