Showing kindness, having manners and putting others first are so important and something my parents always instilled in me. I recall being grateful for “normal” things like my family, friends, soccer, dance and my really cool sneakers. It wasn't until the summer of 2009 that I would add regaining the ability to breathe on my own, overcoming chemo-induced diabetes, losing and regaining my sight, and many other health factors to my list of “things I'm grateful for.”
In July of that year, I was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. After numerous rounds of radiation had failed, it was discovered that my cells also showed myeloid leukemia characteristics. But at that point there was nothing left to try. My doctors told my parents it was time to make arrangements - I didn't have much time left.
That same night I had a dream: I was standing on railroad tracks facing the grim reaper. I saw a train coming and watched as the train hit the grim reaper. The next morning my doctors came in with one last thing to try - the Campath shot.
I was in remission for two weeks before it was decided I needed a life-saving bone marrow transplant...ASAP. People can be on the transplant list for YEARS before they find a match. Within two weeks a 10/10 match was found. Another rarity. Remember the “grateful for” list? Immediately I added the fact that there was an angel on earth meant to help me. That there was someone out there so selfless that they were willing to undergo the health risks of being a bone marrow donor in order to give a complete stranger the chance to live.
The transplant was a success, but a few months after, I was diagnosed with Post Transplant Lymphoma. Again I found myself at my weakest point, with more chemo and radiation. More failures led to doctors sharing that I might not make it. With the love, support and encouragement of those near and far and the grace of God, I somehow made it through surgery and overcame my second cancer.
During this time, my family and I were approached by Make-A-Wish and they were eager to grant the one thing I would want to be, do, see, or meet the most. Right away I knew I wanted to meet Tom Brady. Not only was he my favorite football player, but I always admired his tenacity, passion, strength and commitment, not just to the game, but also those around him. These qualities are what I see in my family. In my parents, who put everything on hold so I never spent a moment alone, and in my brother, who was willing to take a semester off college so he could be there by my side. That doesn't even scratch the surface of what they did for me. They are incredible and I wanted an incredible experience they could enjoy too.
The biggest thing I took from my wish was how willing and selfless everyone was in order to give me an amazing memory. We celebrated my wish being granted on the 1-year anniversary of my transplant. To these big teams and organizations, it might just be something they want to do to give back in some way, but to those they impact, it’s a game changer. I knew instantly that my second chance at life included giving back to others.
This past month, we celebrated the 10th anniversary of my transplant and the 9th anniversary of my wish. Within this time, I have spent more than three years working for Make-A-Wish as the Development Coordinator in Rochester. Being part of a team that provides the healing hope I once received is beyond words – it’s changed me forever.
In sharing my story, my hope is that people will see how important being grateful is…for the small and big things. It’s so crucial to remember how precious the gift of life is and how important it is to spread kindness. To remember that you are stronger than you think and that life is always better when you're a Patriots and a Make-A-Wish fan!