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When Sarah was a little girl her mom would describe her as very independent and an old soul, wise beyond her years. She was also very happy, carefree and rolled with the punches. At 10, however, Sarah was diagnosed with a cancerous growth around her eye. It rocked her family’s whole world, and the word ‘cancer’ was something they couldn’t even bear to say for the first few weeks after her diagnosis — it didn’t feel this was actually happening to them.
“It just puts everything into perspective immediately... We are a family that has had a child diagnosed with a very very serious illness and it almost sets you apart then from the rest of the world,” Sarah's mom says.
Sarah was in the hospital for a year, and underwent 47 chemotherapy treatments and 25 radiation treatments. During that time, someone at the hospital talked to Sarah’s family about Make-A-Wish®.
Sarah remembered some brochures she had seen about Atlantis Resort and wished to go there for a family vacation. She wanted to wish for something that her whole family could enjoy after the challenges they had faced.
“It was our first family vacation since my treatment and it brought us all together again," Sarah says. "We bonded after what we had been through and there was no thinking about cancer or the hospital at all when we were away... The timing of the trip was perfect, we could celebrate me being in remission — a chance for us to turn the page back to normal.”
After her wish, Sarah and her family became very involved as ambassadors for Make-A-Wish. Sarah shares her story at events and she and her mom have volunteered with their local Make-A-Wish chapter. Sarah is also a volunteer wish granter now, and understands how a child feels when they find out that their wish is coming true: “Families with sick children need this experience. You treat the child with medicine, but you treat the whole family with a wish. A wish brings the family back together and as a child, you need to be able to dream and make your own choices,” she says.
In 2016, Sarah graduated with honours from the University of Western Ontario. She majored in biology and hopes to attend medical school and become a pediatric oncologist.
“I’m not sure when I made up my mind that my goal was to become a doctor, but I have always been on this path and I look back on my time with cancer positively," Sarah says. "The experience really molded me into who I am today... I look back on it and I know the faces of the people who helped me. I am passionate about learning and helping people who find themselves in a situation I was once in.”
Thank you to WestJet for helping to make Hannah’s wish so memorable.