Wish Kid Kristyn’s mom, Kandice, shares the journey of her three-year-old’s diagnosis with leukemia and how Make-A-Wish intersected their lives, as seen in the August issue of Peekaboo Magazine.
When Kristyn was little, we noticed that she was smaller than most children her age. We also noticed that Kristyn would push down hard on her lower stomach and hold her breath, as if she was in pain. We took her to her doctor, where they ran tests and told us that it was perhaps a simple bowel issue that she would outgrow. As time went by, Kristyn was pushing on her stomach more often and started to develop high fevers. With many trips to the ER and no answers, we decided to take her to our family doctor for a second opinion. The day we took her, she was very pale and dehydrated. She had been running constant fevers from 102 and above for over a week. The doctor said we needed to do blood tests to figure out what was going on.
The next day, I got a call at work. It was my husband, Chris, letting me know the doctor had just called him and it did not sound good. First off, the doctor asked him if he was sitting down, then said that blood results came in showing that Kristyn was either severely anemic, or…she had cancer. The doctor said that we needed to head to Arkansas Children’s Hospital, and that there would be another doctor waiting there to see Kristyn. The drive from our Fayetteville home to Little Rock seemed like the longest drive ever, with many thoughts running through our minds. When we arrived to Arkansas Children’s Hospital the team took Kristyn back and did a spinal tap on her. It confirmed that our 3-year-old daughter had Type B Leukemia.
Treatment would consist of chemotherapy at home and the hospital, and spinal taps for the next two and half years for treatment. We took many trips to the hospital. We missed our family the whole time we were gone. Our two oldest kids understood why we had to be away, but it was hard on them as well. We spent many days – even weeks – on the hematology floor at Arkansas Children’s Hospital. The nurses and doctors there made sure that we felt comfortable and that Kristyn had plenty of things to do. They would bring her toys and paints and books for her to read when she was too ill to leave her room.
When her blood results came back and showed that her immune system was healthy enough for her to leave her room, she would get to go to a little play area called “Camp Want to Play,” located inside the children’s hospital. We had many weekly appointments that eventually turned into monthly appointments. At one of them, Kristyn’s case worker came in and asked if she could enroll Kristyn for Make-A-Wish. She felt like Kristyn would be prefect for the program. We all agreed that that would be nice. A couple of months later, two lovely ladies came out to our house to meet Kristyn and they asked her questions to get to know all of her favorite things – they even brought her an Elsa microphone and the big kids a game to play with that day. They asked her what one big wish she would like to have come true. Like most girls Kristyn’s age, she loved princesses and the movie Frozen. Kristyn looked at the ladies and said that she would like to go to Disney World to meet her favorite princess, Elsa.
Kristyn’s doctor told us that we wouldn’t be able to make the trip until after Kristyn was treatment-free. A year later, at age six, Kristyn’s doctor gave us the go-ahead for her Make-A-Wish trip. He told us that on November 16, 2015, Kristyn would do her last chemotherapy treatment. A couple of months after that news, a lady from Make-A-Wish called me about all the wonderful details and how they wanted to surprise Kristyn at her Make-A-Wish reveal. It all sounded so wonderful. I was super excited, but I decided to keep it a secret from all the kids. I couldn’t believe that this wish that kept my baby going when she was feeling so ill was about to come true.
The night of November 6, 2016, we took the kids to the Bentonville square to see Wal-Mart Toyland for its Christmas showing of all the new, great toys that came out that year – at least, that’s what we told the kids we were there for. That night, Sofia Carson from the Disney movie “Descendants” happened to be there for Wal-Mart, and Kristyn got the chance to meet her and take pictures; she even got to go on stage and sing with her. While on the stage, a wonderful man from Wal-Mart surprised Kristyn. He took the microphone and asked Kristyn if she’d ever been to Disney World. Kristyn answered, “No.” He then asked her, “Would you like to go?” With our whole family on the stage, she jumped up and down and yelled, “Yes!”
After all the fun on stage was over, we all met at the Wal-Mart Museum for cake and to be able to enjoy family time and talk with the Make-A-Wish people about all that had just happened. Wal-Mart and Make-A-Wish surprised us with luggage and lots of other things for our trip. It was a magical night! Kristyn even mentioned on the way home that it was the best night ever, and that she would always remember that night.
On December 23, 2016, we arrived at XNA airport to board our plane. When we walked in, there were two ladies holding a sign with Kristyn’s name on it, and they gave her gifts with snacks for the trip. The airport even had a cute little pilot bear and some wings for her! As we were taking off in the plane to Orlando, the fire department shot a cannon of water at the plane for Kristyn, while the pilot announced that Kristyn was on the plane headed for her Make-A-Wish trip. Everyone on board cheered and wished us the best of times.
We then arrived in Orlando to our home-away-from-home for the next week, at a place called “Give Kids the World.” It was a magical place, with free ice-cream anytime of the day and rides and games. There was something for us to do at all times as a family, which was something we hadn’t been able to do in a while. It helped us reconnect as a family. Staff even surprised the kids daily with gifts they could take home with them.
The morning of Christmas Day we took the kids to the Magic Kingdom, where we rode tons of rides and Kristyn got to meet many of her favorite princesses. I will never forget us standing in line to meet Elsa. As we got closer, Kristyn’s eyes lit up even more and she leaned over to me – her hands were shaking, her heart was filled with so much joy, and a touch of fear – she whispered, “Mom, I’m nervous.” Elsa then called Kristyn over to her to take a picture and Kristyn just froze. You could see the look on her face. This was the moment that took all the pain away. It was the wish and dream she had been waiting for, and it had just come true.
We went to many other parks that week. We had the best of times that reconnected us as a family. We were all very exhausted by the end of it, but I would not change anything! This trip brought our whole family closer and gave us all joy and laughter and many memories to share for years to come. The money and time donated to Make-A-Wish Mid-South can give that same joy Kristyn had in her heart to another child, and give a family who has lost each other from time apart the time to reconnect… just as it did for our family.