Bonding activities are something every parent longs for. Maybe it’s father-son fishing trips? Or camping as a family? But what happens when the opportunity for those priceless moments is taken away and replaced with a life-threatening medical diagnosis?
That’s what happened to Jacques and his family. As an avid outdoorsman, his illness took away the freedom he experienced in nature.
Jacques’ battle with leukemia began two years ago when his parents, Linda and Gerald, took him to an afterhours clinic with a swollen abdomen and lymph nodes. He was also tired, and they knew something was wrong.
Jacques underwent three rounds of chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant. It was a scary time for he and his family, as he faced several life-threatening complications, including a major seizure that stopped his heart and a major virus attack that reached his brain after the bone marrow transplant. Despite his circumstances, Jacques stayed strong.
“Jacques is an amazing kid,” Gerald said. “He never once complained the whole time. He never lost hope, and he was pretty much ‘Steady Eddie.’ He never got depressed or anything.”
Even after he started his recovery, Jacques had to give up some of his favorite activities because he developed a sensitivity to heat. He had always loved swimming and fishing, especially with his older brother, Cannon. So, when he found out his wish to go to Alaska during the summer was going to be granted, he was elated.
“We are a very outdoorsy family,” Linda said. “We knew that Jacques loves to fish, but going to a hot climate was not possible, so going to Alaska was perfect. Being in a beautiful place like Alaska really gelled with Jacques and our family.”
Being in Alaska meant the weather was cool enough for Jacques to enjoy time outdoors again, and they made the most of it. On the first full day in Alaska, the family, which also includes 12-year-old Collette and six-year-old Dominic, went on a chartered fishing trip. Jacques started fishing a little later than the others, but he quickly showed them how it was done.
“He was the last one to catch a fish, but he was the first one to reach his fish limit,” Gerald said. “There’s no doubt that no one had a run like Jacques did. He had fish on his line nearly every time. It was great!”
The adventures continued as the family went to a summer training session for dog sledding, where they met one of the dogs from the movie “Snow Dogs.” They also got some behind-the-scenes tours at the Alaskan Wildlife Conservation Center.
The highlight of the trip for Jacques was a boat tour at Kenai Fjord National Park. The weather was unusually clear that day, and the water was as clear as glass. Even the whales seemed to want to make the day special for Jacques, as they were jumping and showing off so much that the captain pointed out the whales must be putting on a show for them.
“It was a gift,” Gerald said. “You can’t buy a day like that.”
Linda enjoyed the special family time on a relaxing float and fishing trip on the Kenai River and grilling the salmon they caught when they returned to their little house tucked in the mountains at Cooper’s Landing that evening.
Gerald said that one of the most memorable moments of the trip for him was seeing Jacques’ commitment and determination on the hike up Flattop Mountain. Whenever others were ready to turn back, Jacques encouraged them that they had to reach the top. It took about two hours, and they had to take a lot of breaks, but they made it to the top, where they celebrated and enjoyed the view.
In a way, that hike up Flattop Mountain was reminiscent of what they had just experienced in Jacques’ battle with leukemia, and the trip to Alaska was like the celebration on top of the mountain.
Jacques isn’t alone in feeling hope from his wish come true. A recent study found, “children who received the wish-fulﬁllment intervention had higher levels of hope regarding their future, increased positive emotions and health-related quality of life."
“It was such a celebration of his life,” Gerald said. “It was like a reward for getting through such a difficult time. It helped regenerate and rejuvenate the whole family. It recharged our batteries and put the spring back in our steps.”
“It was a gift. You can’t buy a day like that.”
Gerald, wish dad