Treatment for this rare bone cancer is 9 months of aggressive chemotherapy. That meant that every Friday we were checking into the hospital for a several night stay.
The medicine was so toxic nurses had to wear protective gloves to administer the infusions. Gillian suffered from a variety of side effects that were nauseating and painful. But, what devastated her the most was that she couldn’t go to school. For her father Kyle, her big sister Allison, and me, it was excruciating to watch her suffer.
Now, if you will allow this mom to brag a little…despite all this hardship, Gillian continued to be the kind, observant and creative child she has always been. Her friends rallied to keep her spirits up. She easily won over the hearts of doctors, nurses, kitchen and cleaning staff. She amazed everyone with her artwork.
When chemo was finally done, we celebrated with all our friends—new and old. Gillian went back to school. Our family tried to resume our lives.
I’m going to let you in on something we usually don’t share. It hasn’t been easy to shake off the terrors of childhood cancer. Gillian’s leg is still healing. She needs yet another unplanned surgery next month. Every few months, she needs to undergo tests, and so every few months, we hold our breath praying the cancer hasn’t come back. So far, thank God, the scans have been clean. But, I still have nightmares.
Treatment may be done, but the healing is ongoing.
It was Gillian’s wish, that helped us pivot.
Earlier this year, her dream came true.Gillian got to spend a day at Pixar Animation Studios. We met the talented people behind her favorite movies. We previewed the first 15 minutes of Toy Story 4 before it was finished. Gillian and Allison both tried out the animation software. We even got to crawl into secret hideaways that employees created for their own entertainment. It was unforgettable. We forgot our worries, and had fun with each other for the first time in a long time.
But, Gillian’s wish had a more, profound impact than our weekend get-away. You see, the people we met taught us an important lesson. Lauren and Alex, the Make-A-Wish volunteers took the time to get to know Gillian to make the experience uniquely hers. Before we left, Make-A-Wish partners at Brooks Brothers invited Gillian to their Madison store and threw her a small party where she picked out three new outfits to wear in San Francisco. The Make-A-Wish staff on both coasts, took care of every travel detail, so we didn’t have to worry about a thing. The Pixar employees were clearly pressed for time trying to finish Toy Story 4, yet they set aside everything, lost track of time, and got excited showing Gillian and Allison their work.
We learned that the generosity and kindness of people can heal the wounds that medicine can’t. Our Make-A-Wish family helped us dream about our future. They restored our faith. They gave us hope.
Gillian is applying to high school this year. She is busy preparing her portfolio hoping to get into an art school. Thanks to our friends at Make-A-Wish, thanks to generous donors like you, our family has many, many more wishes to dream about. We can now look forward to watching Gillian make her own wishes come true.
And, I wouldn’t be surprised if she and her sister will someday be in positions, to grant other children their wishes too."
- Stacy Kim