I met with my wish family tonight for dinner. This was the first face-to-face meeting after multiple electronic communications. I assure you there were some nerves on both sides of the table.
This wish is for a 21 year old college junior whose life was interrupted by leukemia. After four non-diagnosis visits finally the news came that she had leukemia. Less than a hour after a doctor visit the phone call came instructing her to go to the hospital immediately. Within hours she was being treated with chemo and subsequently was informed that had she gone undiagnosed and untreated she would have had a maximum of 2 weeks to live. Two weeks.
As she was telling me her story I fought back tears. I listened intently. I admired her strength. I empathized with her mother. Beyond the story of this young woman's battle with leukemia, was her underlying story - her will to live.
There was never a moment that she uttered disgust with her illness going undiagnosed. Never a word about how disappointing it was to lose over a year of her college career. No focus on the 2 years of ongoing treatment that she endured. Rather, she told me how blessed she was. She had the support of her family, her medical team, her friends and her school. She spent the majority of the time talking to me about all of the fantastic people who she met along this journey. How they have inspired her. How she became stronger as a result of it all. She shared information about survivor retreats that she found to be encouraging and how that may benefit future wish recipients that I work with. She talked about the triathlon she is participating in and raising money for to send another cancer survivor to a survivor retreat. Her focus was not on her illness. She as clearly fueled with the passion of helping others who have and are going through the same thing.
Throughout this conversation her mom would pop in and join for a few moments. She had to work and was waiting our table so she could be a part of this trip unveiling. As I revealed the details of the trip, the tears were welling in Marisa's mother's eyes. You see, Marisa just had her port removed last week after 2 years of chemo. This along with a trip to the Florida Keys signified a new beginning. New memories. A bright future. Mom kept telling me that this was "too much." "It's too much. That is so much money. It's too much. You have no idea what it means to us." By this point the tears had erupted from everyone at the table. It's not too much. In fact, it's not enough. Nothing can erase the time that this illness took away from this family. The damage it did to Marisa's body. The emotional wreckage that was incurred. It's simply a way to celebrate her life and create new memories.
Marisa walked away with a relaxing family vacation this evening. I walked away in awe and admiration.