Standing at the top of the icy peak, looking down on the Three Valleys of the French Alps, Sam finally felt in control of her life. As she raced down the slope on her snowboard, her fears about being a survival rate percentage rather than an athletic teenage girl disappeared amidst the white flurries and snow covered trees.
Sam said, “... my percentage of living was very high but what I found scary was even having a percentage on my life at all.”
Receiving her wish of traveling to the French Alps was a point of excitement and joy in Sam’s life after the frightening diagnosis of Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Sam’s wish and the efforts of her wish granters transformed one of the worst times in her life into what that she remembers as the best thing that’s ever happened to her. Before the transformative experience of limo rides and flights to France though, Sam’s natural positivity was clouded by the treatment of her disease.
The Bleakness of Treatment
The smell of hospital hand sanitizer: sterile, chemical, an odor associated with disease and pain that lingers on the skin. Sam came to hate this smell during her treatment because it reminded her of moments better left in the past.
Sam discovered she had Hodgkin’s Lymphoma when a lump appeared on her neck and remained there along with a persistent cough. The process of diagnosis to treatment was rapid and within four days after her first visit to the doctor she had to face the reality of her condition. Her mother remembers that the moment was “crushing” and left them fearful for the future.
Sam says, “When I had to miss school for appointments, or had to miss a hangout with friends because I was too sick, it annoyed me, sometimes it made me feel helpless and that I wasn’t in control of my own life.”
On the brink of adulthood, Sam became the cancer patient, no longer the “normal teenager.” She lost some of her identity in the process as people around her gave her more attention, but not the kind she wanted. She says that, “A lot more people noticed me but they noticed the cancer more than actually noticing me.”
Her first three days of senior year were a heady rush of doctor visits, port surgery, PET scans and a chemo infusion. She had 15 more chemotherapy infusions ahead of her and the prospect of missing a significant amount of school. Regular high school anxiety was replaced with the fear of dying, nausea and nerve pain.
More Than a Percentage
Sam’s wish granters enhanced the wish reveal by adding personal touches and additions:
“Mark and Kristi surprised me with a snowboard prop to let me know that my wish had been approved…The countdown to the wish they made was so awesome. I really enjoyed the surprise sendoff party at Buck Hill. The limo ride was great and I couldn’t wait to just get to France.”
After the devastation of her diagnosis, volunteers gave her something to look forward to. She recaptured her love for snowboarding and traveled all the way to France, where she spent the entire time exploring the surrounding area, eating delicious local food and observing the breathtaking scenery in a horse drawn carriage.
Sam recalls that it was, “An experience of a lifetime.” Through her wish she found, “there is always good to come when something bad is happening.”
She was able to leave feelings of helplessness behind in the moments between her surprise sendoff party and the point when she was so desperate to stay in France that they almost missed their connecting flight. For Sam, her wish was truly the rainbow after the storm.