It was a car trip we will never forget. Our family was returning to West Fargo from Minneapolis on September 29th, 2015. We had just pulled into McDonald’s for a “halfway home” snack when we got a call from the doctor informing us that there was a 90-percent chance our daughter, Braelyn, had acute lymphocytic leukemia, or ALL. Needless to say, the remaining two-hour drive home was filled with emotion. So much went through our minds. We kept thinking, “This is the kind of thing you hear about happening to other people on TV.” Now, it was happening to us. A life-threatening illness. And we had no choice but to deal with it…and fast.
The very next day, Braelyn was admitted to the hospital, where she remained for the next six days. During that time, we learned all about her cancer and how our life for the next couple years would be turned upside down. The task ahead seemed daunting and hard to grasp initially, but the doctors and nurses at Roger Maris Cancer Center in Fargo were so awesome. They filled us with the hope that this battle could be won, and together with our family and friends, we would get through it.
Dr. Kobrinsky, Braelyn’s doctor, called it our “new normal,” and that it would be that way for the next two and a half years. It was our new lifestyle, our new schedule of regular clinic visits and daily medications. It was getting used to, and becoming comfortable with, Braelyn not looking, feeling or acting like herself…for most of the next year. Steroids, chemotherapy and spinal injections have that effect. But seeing it happen to a child…your child…was incredibly difficult.
Through it all, Braelyn’s been incredibly brave. And just like Dr. K said, we adapted and got used to our “new normal.” The first several months were the toughest and most grueling on her…and our family. We are so blessed to have most of our extended family in the area, and they’ve made a huge difference over the past year, helping us out wherever it was needed. We were also blown away by the support from our friends and our community! It was so humbling and so amazing!
About three months into our “new normal,” Braelyn got a huge boost and some much needed, extra “motivation” to continue her treatment and taking her pills. We received notice she would be granted a “wish” through Make-A-Wish North Dakota. Brae and her twin sister, Camryn, have always been huge fans of anything “princess,” dressing up often and even having a princess-themed birthday party. So her “wish” wasn’t a difficult choice—she wished to go to Disney World and meet all the princesses! For the second time in a few short months, we couldn’t believe this was happening to us. Only this time, it was much needed, positive news!
During the tough, up-and-down months that followed, the thought of the upcoming “wish” provided Braelyn, and the rest of our family, with excitement and motivation to keep pushing on. And our Make-A-Wish Team was so wonderful--sending regular “reminders” that always cheered Brae and our family up and helped keep us going strong.
Eight months after Braelyn’s leukemia diagnosis, our Make-A-Wish trip arrived, and it was the most unbelievable and memorable experience we’ve ever had as a family! It was something Brae, and our family, will never forget! She got to meet every single one of the Disney princesses, including a special one-hour, private visit with her favorite princess of all, Belle, from Beauty and the Beast. The look on her face…the shear joy and amazement that she was actually in the presence of Belle…was something we’ll cherish forever.
From the time the limo picked us up (such a special, memorable touch!) to the time it dropped us off at home, we were treated like “royalty.” The special treatment we received, and opportunities we were afforded during the “wish” were mind-boggling. We felt like VIP’s the entire time. We could not have had a more enjoyable, memorable time. The wish trip did everything it possibly could to make the previous eight months disappear. In fact, I don’t think any of us, even once, thought about leukemia or treatment during our trip.
Even though Braelyn has more than a year left of treatment, we’re so thankful to have had an experience that helped make things so much easier, and happier….both in the short term, and in the memories, photos, videos and mementos we’ll take with us for the rest of our lives. Thank you, Make-A-Wish North Dakota, for bringing such joy and happiness to our lives during this difficult time! Your generosity, and the generosity of those sponsors who make experiences like this possible, cannot be measured. It’s truly life changing and we are forever grateful and appreciative.