The year was 1988 and it was just the beginning of Leah’s journey with Make-A-Wish. Eleven-year-old Leah was diagnosed with chronic myelogenous leukemia that February.
This is her reflection about her journey from illness to health and the impact of her wish.
I recently gave some advice to an old friend whose teenage daughter just survived cancer and is struggling. She will come to realize that the life she originally envisioned, prior to cancer, is over. That girl is no longer present and she needs to mourn her loss. Then, she can begin to rebuild a new vision of who she is now and who she wants to be. I speak from the heart and from experience.
In 1988, when I was just 11 years old, I was diagnosed with chronic myelogenous leukemia. I remember feeling relieved when I was diagnosed because I finally had an answer for all that was wrong with me. It's hard to say if life right before diagnosis was better or worse than life after diagnosis. Some of my peers didn't believe me when I would complain about not feeling well. They thought i was faking it to get out of things. Doctors kept telling me that it was growing pains or it was because I was too active. In my heart I knew it wasn't that. There was so much pain during that time in my life, but there was also joy and amazing experiences that left a forever imprint on my heart.
My Make-A-Wish experience was one of those bright spots. Make-A-Wish came into my life and gave me something to look forward to and to keep my mind – and my family's minds – off the sad and uncertain reality of my illness. My prognosis was unknown so at the time, i remember thinking my wish trip would give us one last hurrah together as a family filled with fun memories to think of instead of me sick or worrying about the unknown.
This March, I will have been cured for 27 years. I am so grateful to be alive and through my illness have come to appreciate life to the fullest.
Make-A-Wish was a part of my life during my roughest time and it continues to be an important part of my life now. I am now a wish-granting volunteer, helping to make other kid's wishes come true and I love it. I feel like I have come full circle and I'm grateful for the opportunity to bring joy to other families, giving them memories that will last forever, just as I have experienced.