When people think about the Make-A-Wish Foundation, most people think about dying children fulfilling their last wish to go to Disneyworld. But Make-A-Wish Foundation is about so, so much more.
As a volunteer wish granter for the Make-A-Wish Foundation, I’ve had the opportunity to learn more about the organization from the inside and to understand what really goes into turning a child’s wish into reality. I firmly believe that I have the best job of all- it is my responsibility to spend time with children with life-threatening conditions and help them to realize their “one, true wish.” These wishes are about more than visiting Disneyworld but rather understanding what will bring each child the greatest joy they could ever imagine.
This past week, I was inspired to hear about an incredible wish that was close to home for me: Stephen’s wish to be recruited for the University of Michigan Football Team. Like many children, he lost his ability to play football when he was diagnosed with cancer. For his wish, Stephen got to meet his favorite football player, Michigan’s football coach, and even the football team in the Big House.
The only way to appreciate the great work of the Make-A-Wish Foundation is to witness his wish for yourself:
There are many, many reasons why I’m excited to be attending the University of Michigan Medical School this fall. But I think that they all come down to one fact:
I’m not done.
In high school, all I wanted to do was get out of Ann Arbor. Never would I have ever imagined living here as a University of Michigan undergraduate, not to mention staying on for graduate school. With each life phase though, I have gotten to experience a new dimension of Ann Arbor; I’ve come to truly appreciate all that this city and these people have to offer.
What I love about the University of Michigan is the passion and dedication within our community. I have had the pleasure of getting to know so many motivated and inspiring students, advisors, and professors. This is a community of individuals who are committed to encouraging passion, embracing innovation, and nurturing our curiosity as life-long learners. This place and these people have shaped me into the person that I am today. I look forward to continuing to work with familiar faces as well as meeting new people.
Despite the change instigated by moving out and coming to college, there is one thing that has stayed constant as part of my life: volunteering at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital. Mott is a place where I have spent more than 5 years, hundreds of hours, and even birthdays. Every Friday, security personnel greet me, health professionals say hi, and the man at the parking structure always thanks me genuinely for dedicating my time as a volunteer.
Perhaps what I most value is that many patients and their families have come to recognize me just as I recognize them. It means so much to me that I have had the opportunity to get to know these individuals and develop these lasting relationships. When I catch up with these people, I am reminded of just how much these experiences have helped me to understand what it means to truly care for others. Mott is a place that I have filled with memories over the years, and I’ve realized that I’m not quite ready to leave it just yet.
I’m not done, and it’s such an honor that I don’t have to be. Forever, go blue.
To be honest, this is probably the most important thing that I’ve done in my life.
I know it sounds dramatic, but I can’t help but think that it’s true. I’ve been excited about writing a thesis since coming to college. I had no idea what it would be about, but I loved the idea of turning my own thoughts into something new. My English teacher once told me that I was a seeker; I enjoy turning to literature for answers and embracing its ambiguity. And in many ways, that is what I’ve done in my Honors English thesis.
It’s hard for me to wrap my mind around just how much of myself I’ve devoted to this research. But in many ways, this thesis is the culminating creation of my entire undergraduate education here at Michigan and more. Volunteering with pediatric oncology patients in high school initially piqued my interest; now, I’ve become dedicated to hopefully getting involved in childhood cancer as a physician. I needed to do this research: for these individuals with cancer who have had such an impact on my life but also for me, as a way of making sense of these unfathomable lives.
These final days have also been a time for remembering how fortunate I am to have so many people in my life supporting me. A close friend willingly contributed an extra set of eyes and an additional brain towards the editing process. From front to back, my mom read my entire thesis for typos. My dad morally supported me in the final stretch, and even my brother helped me to perfect the images. It’s been humbling to watch my loved ones step aside from their lives and devote their time to my own project.
Throughout the process, I’ve said that all I wanted was to be able to turn my thesis in knowing that I did everything I could and that I personally am happy with it. By my own standards, I believe that I’ve successfully accomplished this goal, and I couldn’t be more content.
If nothing else, the fact that I found myself eager to write this blog post and excited to dive into John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars to celebrate says something to me. I know that in studying literature, I’ve truly been doing something I love.
“Say what you wanna say
And let the words fall out
Honestly I wanna see you be brave”
The lyrics of Sara Bareilles’ song Brave struck me. They reminded me of the purpose behind my research and my Honors English thesis: to give children and adolescents a chance to tell their own stories. And, to give all those involved the opportunity to listen, to better understand how these children and adolescents cope with the complex, mysterious illness of cancer. In my mind, the bravery arises in how children are talking and writing about their intimate experiences with cancer.
From Stronger to Roar and now Brave, my emotions are mixed about these charged music videos about the sphere of pediatric oncology. While the Stronger and Roar videos ask for donations to support childhood cancer research in the caption, this video of Brave only links to additional information about the programs offered. I wonder, how does the purpose behind these videos affect how we should respond to them?
I have to say, one of the best things about these music videos is that they counter common misconceptions about childhood cancer. Every time I tell someone that I want to be a pediatric oncologist, people stare at me and say, “Oh. That’s so depressing” or “That’s so sad!”. I’m not saying that it’s not going to be an emotionally challenging career, but at the same time, these are truly incredible and lively children. These videos portray the fun and joy that is also part of pediatric oncology. These children embrace their passions and make the most of their time in hospitals by playing games, making crafts, and finding reasons to laugh.
That’s why these videos make me smile.
Similar to Seattle Children’s Hospital’s performance of Stronger by pediatric oncology patients and staff, the Children’s Hospital at Dartmouth-Hitchcock did their own rendition of Katy Perry’s song Roar. This powerful video unites pediatric oncology patients, their families, and the healthcare professionals that treat them come together to sing how “you’re going to hear me roar.”
September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. Niki K; BY-SA.
September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month in America. Last year, President Obama declared this month to honor the cause of childhood cancer. Represented by an elegant gold ribbon, this is the 2nd September to share the stories of children with cancer, to recognize the research we do for these children, and look ahead to what more we must do.
In honor of Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, I dedicate my posts to this cause. I will reflect on memoirs and other narratives about childhood cancer that I have stumbled upon.
“This month, we pay tribute to the families, friends, professionals, and communities who lend their strength to children fighting pediatric cancer. May their courage and commitment continue to move us toward new cures, healthier outcomes, and a brighter future for America’s youth” (Barack Obama, 2012).
It’s incredible when the long anticipated is greater than ever expected.
That’s how I feel about my thesis research. I’ve said this before, but I still can’t believe that it has come this far.
As an aspiring Pediatric Oncologist, the experience of interacting with the variety of health professionals in this realm is invaluable. But what I treasure most is the time that I have spent with each of my patients: the words exchanged, the deep inhalations, the glances away, the silences. In many ways, what cannot be captured naturally in front of a recorder are the things that I have held on to from these conversations.
The Pediatric Heme/Onc staff at Mott have all been so helpful and enthusiastic, the patients and their families kind and supportive. One of the things about volunteering with these patients for years is that not only do you never forget them, but they never forget you either. I was touched when a mother recognized me from my presence in the playroom over the years.
As I’ve begun to implement the research protocol that I designed, I’ve become grateful for the flexibility engrained in my project. Most children that I have worked with seem to prefer having a verbal conversation about their experiences before constructing their written stories, but that has not always been the case. And the age range for the study, 10-17 year olds, has proven to be more restricting than focusing. I think that to capture the spectrum of cancer diagnoses and effects, I will need to expand this to include children as young as 6 or as old as 21.
After we had completed the activity in its entirety, one patient told me that this was the most that he had ever spoken about cancer. And perhaps that is what I have been reaching for all along. As volunteers, we engage with these patients but never directly confront them about their diagnoses because that is not what is important. This activity allows me to explore this unknown taboo, to dive in headfirst.