This week, in honour of Childhood Cancer Awareness month, Wish Engagement Manager Katie remembers a wish for a simply stellar young man…….
I started my tenure at Rays of Sunshine over 10 years ago. I was naïve and didn’t appreciate the vast number of children affected by a serious illness. Sadly, each year the number of families who reach out to us grows, with most of the children that we grant wishes for being treated for cancer – a disease that is indiscriminate. And despite all the gruelling treatments that they endure; they remain positive, stoic and incredibly determined children, who will not let this disease define them.
Last year we received a wish for a young boy, Daniel, aged just 5. Daniel was poorly for a little while before he was diagnosed with a brain tumour. He was only 3 years old. He underwent emergency surgery within hours of being diagnosed as the build-up of fluid within his brain was causing him immense pressure on his young body. His recovery was steady and he remained under the watchful eye of his oncology team.
“Daniel is such a fun little boy. He loves nothing more than to act silly with his friends and make people laugh. He loves Lego, trains and Star Wars. He loves comfy clothes and hates wearing anything ‘scratchy!’ He also loves his two sisters very much and is very close to them. He plays with his big sister constantly and looks after his little sister. His future goals are just to be happy and make his friends smile. We’re so proud of him.”
This extract from his wish application form written by his parents, Rosalind and Colin, shows just how much this small boy impacts on those around him and the ripple effect of his huge personality.
His greatest wish was to meet Finn from the Star Wars films. We set to work and the lovely John Boyega was only too happy to oblige to Daniel’s wish and become Finn once again. They met in the galaxy of London, somewhere that Finn had never encountered before, where they practised their lightsabre swinging skills and talked about all things from defeating the bad guys to intergalactic dining! After this intimate meeting, the fun was not yet to end.
Despite only being 5 years old, Daniel had seen the effect that cancer had on other children and their families. He knew that to keep their spirits high, that they needed a reason to smile. Therefore, his request didn’t stop at just meeting Finn, but he wanted to visit other poorly children and deliver presents to them to bring them sunshine and smiles.
After Daniel’s wish was granted, we received a letter from his mum.
“When you’re in that moment, being told that your child is seriously unwell, you feel like you’ve been thrown into a swamp. You’re sinking, trying to stay afloat, but you’re holding your child too. Just trying to keep their head above the water. You’re terrified, the thought that your child might sink and you too. You’re exhausted and don’t feel like you can keep going. You feel so totally alone.
But then people start jumping in with you. They don’t have to be there; most people would run in another direction. The doctors and nurses jump in and take the weight of your child. They offer you a helping hand too. You feel lighter, have hope and think you might able to keep your heads above the water line. But sometimes you feel forgotten as everyone else gets on with their lives, like the old one you used to have. They don’t understand what your child is going through or how strong they have had to be and how special they are. You’re managing in your swamp, but you still feel so alone.
But then the sun comes out. A whole team of smiles in yellow T-shirts dive bomb and flip their way into the swamp. They bring laughter, fun, hope and understand just how special your child is, how special all these children are. You find yourself smiling in a way you haven’t since your found yourself in that place and feel so proud of your child that your heart could burst. In short, they turn the swamp into a pool party!
We’ll never be able to thank you enough for what you did for Daniel, what you did for all of us. Never underestimate the importance of what you do. You’re as important to us as the surgeon who saved his life, the oncologist who keeps him well, the radiologist who monitors him, the nurses who care for him and show him love even when he wants to be left along. Keep doing what you do. You make the world a better place.”
It’s a letter that reminds me that children like Daniel are brave, strong, resilient and deserve every reason to smile. It also serves as a reminder that those who hold these children so dearly are deeply affected by a diagnosis of cancer too and the memories we help them create as a unit brings them back together and rebuilds some of their missed and precious family moments.
During Childhood Cancer Awareness month, we honour these children and their families and thank them for their continued inspiration to grant magical wishes every day.