Alyssa, by all accounts, is a typical tween girl—she loves fashion, Taylor Swift and One Direction. But more than anything, Alyssa loves nail polish.
She has more than 300 bottles, paints her nails every couple of days, and even has her own make-shift nail salon in her bedroom.
“She’s her own little animated movie,” said wish mom, Michella. “Alyssa’s non-stop, go, go, go—just a ball of fun.”
But two years ago, Alyssa started to experience hip pain so bad she couldn’t walk. After multiple doctors’ visits, trips to Children’s Hospital, an emergency surgery and a MRI, doctors finally initiated a bone biopsy. Michella was at work when she got the news—Alyssa had Ewing’s sarcoma, a rare cancerous bone tumor, and needed to meet with an oncologist immediately.
“When we would go to Children’s, I used to look around and see all the little children without hair,” recalled Michella. “I was so grateful that Alyssa wasn’t in their position. But then, we got the news. When you think you’re dealing with something so horrible, and then it ends up being so much worse than you thought … the feeling is indescribable.”
The next few weeks moved quickly. After multiple tests, Alyssa started her 10-month run with chemo. But she remained tough through it all. Her treatment ended in June 2014, but only after many holidays spent in the hospital and a surgery to remove Alyssa’s hip bone and femur.
During this trying time, there was a bright spot when Alyssa’s social worker told her she had been referred to Make-A-Wish. Alyssa and her family were ecstatic.
“It gave us something fun to think about,” said Michella. “There’s nothing good that comes with cancer, but this gave us something hopeful.”
A burgeoning fashionista and lover of all things girly, a shopping spree sounded like an ideal wish. Alyssa researched malls throughout the country before finally landing on the Mall of America.
“She felt like it was three wishes wrapped up in one,” Michella said. “She’d never been on a plane, so she could go somewhere. And not only was there shopping in the mall, but there was a theme park too!”
In September 2014, Alyssa and her family spent four amazing days in Minnesota doing far more than just shopping. They went to the amusement park, their hotel’s water park and the aquarium, played mini golf, saw a movie, went to a mirror maze, celebrated Alyssa’s birthday, and, of course, shopped a lot.
“The whole thing was just so amazing,” said Michella. “Alyssa said she felt like royalty the entire time. Everybody took time to talk to her.”
Now, a year later, Alyssa just went in for her one-year appointment and things are looking good. She still attends physical therapy and periodically has scans and labs, but she’s miles above where she once was. Alyssa even takes the time to talk to kids who have recently been diagnosed, hopeful she can help others through similar struggles.
As for Alyssa’s family, four days was all it took to bring them closer than ever.
“Cancer pulls families apart,” Michella said. “But we had this great adventure that brought us all closer together. It was very life-changing for our family.”
Special thanks to Alaska Airlines, Mall of America, Make-A-Wish Minnesota and wish-granting volunteers Suzanne Greene and Paul Mader.