It’s been three years since wish granter, Chris Zaluski heard the word cancer while sitting in a patient room at his doctor’s.
“I was given the diagnosis of renal cell carcinoma – a type of kidney cancer,” Chris says. “That was the evening before my family was set to leave for Disney and I couldn’t bear to tell them the news before a big family getaway, so I sat with the news until they returned.”
As thoughts and worry clouded his head, Chris says that he began to think of his wish families and the struggles they so courageously face in the diagnosis of a critical illness.
“This wasn’t life-threatening…it was a bump in the road. But thinking about my wish kids, and their loved ones, and what they endure on a daily basis, my focus began to shift. I was more focused on what mattered to my heart and giving back was one of the main things that kept me in the ring to fight and fight harder.”
Chris received care at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center and was given both good and bad news. Due to the location of the tumors in his kidney, surgeons could not operate to remove them. However, with a change in lifestyle including diet and exercise, one of the tumors began to shrink. Chris didn’t have to endure chemo, and instead is checked on every six months for monitoring of the tumors.
“Through it all, I never slowed down. I didn’t want my health setback to impact my wishes and my commitment to Make-A-Wish. My wish kids come first – they are dealing with more than I ever could.”
Chris has continued to remain a powerful force in the Western New York region, granting dozens of wishes annually and more than 50 wishes since his start as a volunteer in 2012. He says among the wishes are superheroes like Anderson, who wished to sign a song on stage with Twenty One Pilots and Zoey, who wished to meet Minnie Mouse. He also says Sondus, who wished to have electronics to communicate with her family back in Lebanon, weighs on his heart.
“Make-A-Wish is a total life change. You have to be a blessing when and where you can and Make-A-Wish has given me the gift of bringing joy and hope to families who need it most. To me, there is no greater gift or motivator to keep going, even when it’s cancer that you’re up against.”