The Wish Children

For most people, going to get the mail is just a daily task. But for 4-year-old little Rachel, it signifies something much more than that. She loves receiving cards in the mail and each day she heads down to the mailbox to check if anyone sent her a letter.

When Rachel was 3-years-old, she came down with a high fever. Upon bringing her to the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO), her parents received some crushing news. “As soon as the doctors came in and I saw the look on their faces, I just started crying,” says mom, Holly. Rachel was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia that day. Immediately after receiving the diagnosis, she was hooked up to an IV and had to undergo a blood and platelet transfusion.

After starting chemotherapy, she woke up one morning and couldn’t move. Rachel stopped walking for an entire month after that. Seeing her so sick was devastating on her family, but Rachel’s parents spent as much time with their little girl as they could. They couldn’t believe the outpouring of support they received and the number of complete strangers praying for her to get better.

Rachel’s dream is to go to Disney World with her parents and siblings, and Children’s Wish Foundation National Capital Chapter is going to make that happen. When Rachel is feeling down, the thought of her most heartfelt wish is a huge motivation for her.

“It’s an eye-opener to know that there are all these people out there who care. No words will ever be enough to thank them, our Exile Island team “Hewlett Packard Enterprise”. We want to help another family in this situation because this happened to us,” says Holly.

In the meantime, Rachel has a 2.5-year chemotherapy plan, but upon completion in September 2018, when she’s feeling better, she plans on visiting the magical place of her dreams. Rachel’s favourite Disney princess is Anna from Frozen and she one day dreams of having long, luscious hair like Rapunzel.

In many ways, Mackenzie is like other 4-year-old little girls. She loves all of the Disney princesses, she is rambunctious, active, and she has an incredible imagination. She is feisty, outgoing and known as “Chatty Cathy”. At just one and a half years old she already knew the entire alphabet. Something sets Mackenzie apart from other little girls though – she has cancer.

When her parents took Mackenzie to get her vaccinations before starting school, the doctor noticed lumps in her neck. They were told to hold off on the vaccinations and return in four to six weeks for a check-up. Six weeks later, Mackenzie’s entire world changed. On a Friday in August 2016, Mackenzie went for blood work at the doctor’s office and by the following Monday her dad, Jason, was called and told to take Mackenzie immediately to the hospital.

Mackenzie was rushed to Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario, where she did not leave for two weeks and received the shattering news that she had acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Chemotherapy was administered through a port, and this tough little girl underwent surgery to get the treatment started. Although her body responded well to the treatment, Mackenzie did not. She ripped out her IV at one point and cried to her parents about wanting to go home. The situation was heartbreaking for parents, Jason and Kim. After a month and a half, Mackenzie’s hair started falling out. Mackenzie would ask her parents why the doctors gave her medicine that made her hair fall out.

Though Mackenzie and her family have been going through this extremely tough time, they continue to focus on the positives.The family is overwhelmed with all of the tremendous support they have received during Mackenzie’s journey to recovery.

“We have experienced so much support from the community coming together. To learn how much people care is really overwhelming. We’re speechless at times by the love and care everyone has shown us. It’s been really incredible,” Jason says.   

Mackenzie is extremely excited to know that her most heartfelt wish, to go on a Disney Cruise, will be granted by Children’s Wish Foundation of Canada, National Capital Chapter and her Exile Island team “Penfield”. With her chemotherapy planned to end in October of 2018, Mackenzie and her family would love to travel on the Disney Cruise.

As a parent of a child with Down Syndrome, Kathleen was aware that daughter Adrienne was at a higher risk of developing leukemia according to statistics. Yet even with the stats, how can any parent be prepared for such an eventuality?  When Adrienne was diagnosed in 2016 with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, Kathleen never really believed that it could happen to Adrienne.

A cold that wouldn’t go away and an ear infection that could not be healed with antibiotics led doctors to run tests and conclude the diagnosis for Adrienne.

A child with Down Syndrome, diagnosed with leukemia, is treated as high-risk and Adrienne would have to spend a great deal of time in the hospital during her treatment. Over the course of the first year, Adrienne has spent approximately 120 days in the hospital.

Yet she still smiles at people and still “puts on her little show” according to Kathleen.

Adrienne’s diagnosis has definitely impacted the family which includes: dad Paul, Anne, 8-years-old, Joey, 10-years-old and Adrienne’s twin Jeanette, who also turns 5-years-old on May 2nd.

“I think she understands she’s sick. She doesn’t understand though why she has to be here so much when her brother and sisters don’t have to come,” Kathleen says.

Adrienne still has to endure chemotherapy and treatments, scheduled to be completed in August 2018. The family is elated to be planning their Disney Cruise in early Spring 2019. This is Adrienne’s wish, which has been granted by Children’s Wish Foundation of Canada, National Capital Chapter and Exile Island Team Local Lansdowne.

“Knowing that Team Local Lansdowne is working hard to help grant this wish makes us feel very emotional. This wish means that you are not just helping that child who is sick, you are helping the whole family. Adrienne is the one who is sick but the rest of the family are deeply impacted – we’re taking all the emotional blows. So thank you for thinking of the whole family during this challenging time,” Kathleen says.

When your child is constantly catching a cold and fever, you may naturally assume that this is common in the lives of school-age children. As a parent you would not consider, even momentarily, that a cold and fever were signs of a serious medical issue.

Isabel, 7-years-old, began experiencing reoccurring colds and fevers beginning in early 2016. Visits to the walk-in clinic with mom, Apple, resulted in the assurance that her symptoms were that of the common cold. Yet when the condition persisted over a period of months, Apple’s motherly intuition persisted and she made another visit to the doctor. An astute physician immediately recognized that Isabel “did not look right” and sent her off to Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHE0) for blood work.

Within 24 hours of the visit to CHEO, Apple was being informed that her daughter had acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

“My world was crushed the second I heard that news. She is my only one, my only child. It was so shocking to hear this,” Apple says.

From the moment of the diagnosis in September 2016, Apple’s number one focus has been to care for her daughter and assure Isabel that she will be a healthy kid again, one day.

“It’s important that I remain positive for her. If I’m not positive, Isabel will feel it and I don’t want that. Nothing else matters except taking care of Isabel right now,” Apple says.

Now, Apple and husband, Xinbao, are thankful that Isabel is responding well to chemotherapy. While on chemo, Isabel’s platelets will drop to dangerously low levels and it’s difficult for the parents to see their only child so vulnerable.

“It’s been really tough, some days, to see the bruises all over her tiny body,” Apple says.

In the meantime, Isabel is focusing on her most heartfelt wish, a Disney Land/Cruise experience, granted by Children’s Wish Foundation, National Capital Chapter and her Exile Island “Team Impact.”

Apple is thoughtful when she considers the kindness and generosity of “Team Impact.”

“We are so grateful for this. When Isabel is depressed, in the hospital and she can’t go to school, she has this wish to think about, to hang on to. She knows that this is coming to her in the future when she is healthy again. This wish that you are giving her represents you giving her hope. Thank you so much!” Apple says.

A parent’s instinct is unrivalled when it comes to the health and well-being of their child.

When Lily was only 2-years-old, she began to experience chronic and persistent colds and ear-infections, lasting for months. Doctors informed parents, Kris and Sara, that it was a typical childhood illness and that she should be fine. After several prescriptions of antibiotics, Lily did not improve, but instead got progressively worse. Deep down Lily’s parents knew that something more was going on.

One night after putting Lily to bed, they noticed her breathing was very short and wheezy. They immediately rushed her to the hospital. Doctors diagnosed Lily with bronchial pneumonia but quickly noticed her heart was enlarged and sent her to the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO).

After a few tests, the doctors told Kris and Sara the shocking news - Lily did not have pneumonia. She had collapsed lungs, an enlarged heart, and hypertension as a result of kidney failure.

Lily was then put in an induced coma for a week and a half, and had an emergency dialysis port inserted into her neck.

“Standing in the shadows of all the doctors and nurses, watching all these machines and devices keeping my daughter alive, is an image that is forever etched into my brain. Seeing one of the most beautiful, intelligent little girls lying almost lifeless on a hospital bed is every parent’s nightmare,” Kris says.

Lily was critically ill and her only hope for survival was a kidney transplant.

Lily was on dialysis for almost two years before receiving a call that there was a kidney available for transplant. This would ultimately save Lily’s life.

“This began the process in which Lily would get her life back. It truly was a miracle,” Kris says.

When the family first heard that the Children’s Wish National Capital Region Chapter would be granting Lily her most heartfelt wish, they we overjoyed. They knew, however, that Lily must first recover from her kidney transplant.

It’s been a little more than a year since Lily’s life-saving transplant and now she can begin the process of planning her wish. Lily, like most little girls, loves princesses yet she equally loves Star Wars and she is excited to know that she can see and experience both when she goes to Disney World with her family!  Lily and her family are grateful to her Exile Island Team, Assent Compliance, for helping to make her wish come true.

The wish trip will be an adventure for Lily and for the first time in her young life will not include doctors, hospitals or surgery rooms.

When Maya was only 1-year-old, her mom noticed an unusual diaper rash.  Her pediatrician told them it was a staph infection.  The pain and rash both got worse, however, so they took Maya to the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO) where they were given the news that would change their lives forever. 

Maya had Leukemia.

She was admitted to CHEO where she underwent blood transfusions, three bone marrow biopsies and chemotherapy. Life as the family knew it came crashing to a halt as they settled in for many hospital stays and procedures. Chemo just became a part of their everyday “normal” life.

Maya started maintenance in 2015, which allowed some flexibility with more outings to malls and restaurants. 

While in the hospital they were introduced to Children’s Wish Foundation of Canada.  Maya received the paperwork, but more importantly, a magic wand and Roary Lion, the Children’s Wish teddy bear and mascot.  Her parents explained to her that with her magic wand, she could go anywhere, and do anything she wanted!

Without hesitation, she shook the wand and made her wish: to go swimming with Mickey, Minnie, Daisy, Donald, and Goofy. 

Maya and her family are very grateful to Children’s Wish, her Exile Island Team Maya’s Minions, and everyone who contributes to granting wishes like Maya’s.  They are excited to start planning her wish, which will bring the family closer together than ever before.

When asked what the wish means to their family, Maya’s mom, Jodee says, “This wish represents everything that we had to say no to for three years. My husband and I are a team and during those 3 years we couldn’t do anything together as a family. Maya couldn’t go out into public places because of fear of germs. Even when getting groceries, one of us would stay home with Maya and the other would go out. With this wish all the suffering and fear will be temporarily forgotten. It’s allowing us to replace the past with something positive to think about. We know that it will allow Maya to smile and be a kid again.”

Maya is currently in remission.  She had her last chemo treatment on May 8, 2016.

Ivy

The often unseen reality of caring for a child diagnosed with a life-threatening illness is the toll it can take on other members of the family.

When Ivy was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, parents Melissa and BJ, were thrown into a whirlwind of juggling schedules and responsibilities.

“There were periods where the only time we saw each other was for a quick lunch in the hospital cafeteria before we would switch “shifts” where I would go home to tend to our son, Finnigan and BJ would be on the hospital shift to be with Ivy,” Melissa says.

Yet the juggling of schedules pales in comparison to the love they have for Ivy. Their only concern is for Ivy to get better.

Ivy has Down Syndrome and has an increased risk of cancer. Although Melissa was aware of the increased risk, it still came as a shock when it actually occurred.

Ivy has spent the better part of the past year in and out of hospital, and has experienced very serious infections during her treatment.

The family is now in the maintenance stage of Ivy’s treatment and is very focused on helping Ivy return to her physio and speech therapy to regain the progress that has been lost during treatment.

“Ivy already has so many challenges and she has worked so hard to overcome some of those, like learning to walk and learning to say a few words. She’s very determined though and we know she’s going to get her strength back and she will get back to the point she was before the diagnosis,” Melissa says.

When Ivy finishes her scheduled treatment in August 2018, the family can begin planning the wish, which is certain to include a location near water so that Ivy can fulfill her passion for swimming.

Significantly, the wish is a much needed and rare opportunity for the family of four to finally be together, enjoying each other without juggling schedules, hospitalizations, meds and separations.

“Thank you so much to our EXILE TEAM REXALL ENCHANTED and the Children’s Wish Foundation, National Capital Chapter for this incredible opportunity. It’s pretty spectacular to know that there are kind people out there who are supporting us. The anticipation of this wish means that there is a beautiful light at the end of the tunnel,” Melissa says.