When I was 16 years old, I was diagnosed with cancer. I was a perfectly healthy teenager, and in an instant, everything changed. I was a pediatric cancer patient fighting for my life.
But my mom was right there by my side through it all, trying to make me laugh whenever possible. I remember one of the times I needed a blood transfusion, my brother’s friend donated his blood, and my mom told everyone I was doing wrestling moves when I received the transfusion, because he was a wrestler.
And in the midst of so many painful treatments and hospital visits, finding out that I was eligible for a wish energized me like nothing else could. I felt like it became part of my treatment because talking with my mom about the possibilities of my wish kept me distracted from the pain.
I wanted to choose a wish that would be special, and I wanted it to last forever, so I wished for a camera. Having a camera couldn’t cure my cancer, but it could heal my spirit and help me feel more like a normal kid. This would be a way to explore my passion, and finding the perfect one was the new focus for me and my mom.
I had never even owned my own camera before, and now I had one that helped me envision my future as a photographer. I didn’t realize it then, but it would help me capture some of the most important memories of my life. It helped me beat my cancer.
As if it weren’t enough, it happened again during my sophomore year of college. My family heard the words, “she has cancer.” But this time, it was my mom, and it was a cancer far more aggressive than mine.
For four years, my mom did every treatment and every clinical trial she could and I was right there by her side capturing every moment. I took thousands of pictures and captured thousands of memories. I remember lying in bed with my mom and telling her, “I don’t want to live without you.”
My mom and I did everything we could to cram 100 years of memories into the 24 years I had with her. I can’t thank my volunteers, that camera store, and Make-A-Wish enough for giving me the ability to capture her journey. Those pictures are everything to me.
It was with my mom’s blessing that I married my fiancé that same year and we started our crazy adventure together.
Mark and I had a beautiful baby girl named Kate on November 1, 2015 and I do everything I can to capture every moment of our lives together.
I have a different camera now, but I am reminded of my first camera and the memories I made with my mom every time I take photos because if not for Make-A-Wish, I might not have believed in my abilities enough to explore my love of photography.
Make-A-Wish had become a thread throughout my life after my wish experience. Photographing local events and being a part of a local child’s wish to be a model for the day brought me so much joy, that I desperately wanted to be more connected to creating these wishes.
I felt inspired and full of life again. This time, I had to keep Make-A-Wish at the forefront in my life, not just the thread through it all. So that’s what I did.
Although there are many ways I could have been an advocate for Make-A-Wish, like donating frequent flier miles, speaking, volunteering, making a gift, or donating in-kind goods or services; I became a staff member. I live the mission of Make-A-Wish every day as I share my story with donors and ask them to make wishes like mine come true.