Some wishes do come true. And at the Make-A-Wish Foundation, every wish comes true. Their mission to enrich children's lives with strength, hope, and joy touched me at a time when I truly needed a nudge to lift my spirits. My name is Erika, and at age fifteen, my wish came true.
In October 2002, I was diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia, and my world was turned inside out and upside down. Doctor's appointments, blood transfusions, chemotherapy and spinal taps became my new normal, and as one might imagine, it was difficult to fit in with my peers with a bald head! I tried to laugh and remain positive, but I was physically and emotionally exhausted nearly all of the time. I knew that there would be a light at the end of the tunnel, but some days, it was extremely hard for me to believe that the light existed.
One day in early April, a flicker of light walked into my home: three volunteers from the Make-A-Wish Foundation. They visited my parents and me to discuss my most favorite wish - an overwhelming, yet welcomed idea! I could hardly believe that somebody was willing to do this for me, but my volunteers explained that the Foundation was here to make my wish a reality.
Right away, I knew that I wanted to travel, and I knew that I wanted to escape to a tropical paradise where all of my worries would be left behind. I soon decided that the islands of Hawaii would be a fabulous destination, especially for a winter vacation. My volunteers told the Foundation that I wanted to travel in January when my rough days of chemotherapy were over. Soon, I started to see the light at the end of my tunnel very clearly!
In January 2004, just after I celebrated a new year and a victory over cancer, my family and I were whisked off to the big island of Hawaii and Oahu for a fabulous vacation and a celebration of life. My week-long stay in paradise provided the relaxation and celebration that my family and I needed after an arduous year-and-a-half long journey battling cancer. We surfed, sunned, dined, and dove into the Pacific seas - and enjoyed every minute.
Five years later, I interned with the Make-A-Wish office in Pittsburgh - a truly amazing experience that helped to shape my career path. After beginning my career with the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society in Pittsburgh, I recently moved and now work in development and fundraising at Rice University in Houston, TX.
I was truly fortunate to be able to share the power of a wish with other wish kids and their families during my internship at the Make-A-Wish Foundation. It was so rewarding to know that I was helping other children escape the tough times and embrace life with strength, hope, and joy!