We saw 20 doctors in 10 months. And yet, we were repeatedly told that Anna’s sensations weren’t cause for serious concern.
As a mother of a child in pain, not getting answers is, well, not an option. The ambiguity tends to force you to over-focus. You become hypersensitive to every single thing. But when Anna knocked over a jar of nickels at an arcade and said she didn’t see it, I knew it should have been in her line of sight. I knew something was seriously wrong with my child.
After many tests, an MRI, a visit to the optometrist and a field vision test, we learned that Anna had lost right-field vision in both of her eyes.
The reason: My baby girl had a noncancerous brain tumor.
You don’t hear about brain tumors in a hopeful light. It’s so often a fatal diagnosis. It is the most dreaded diagnosis. We were frozen in fear.
You might think, looking at our photo above, that my daughter looks fine. You might think it was a great thing that her tumor was benign. We are so fortunate for both of these facts. I am so grateful that Anna’s tumor was not an aggressive form of brain cancer. But, surgeons had to go into my daughter’s most precious area – her brain -- to remove it, just two short weeks after her diagnosis. That, too, is very scary.
Anna’s brain surgery lasted six hours. Most of her tumor was removed, but two pieces of it remain in an area that is hard to reach, so Anna is regularly monitored for tumor growth. She has not regained the sight she lost in both eyes.
For Anna, one of the hardest things to accept in all of this was how she would mark the one-year anniversary of her surgery date, Feb. 25, a date filled with pain, anxiety and fear. That tumor wasn’t only scary – it was life-altering. Her ability to translate visuals and sounds has changed. It also diminished my daughter’s intense love for playing basketball.
But we always said to Anna, “Don’t stop dreaming. Just find a different dream.”
And that she did, thanks to one wish.
My father referred Anna to be considered for Make-A-Wish®. He does things like that, just to brighten someone’s day. I don’t think he realized the power he had in that moment.
I was always under the impression that Make-A-Wish only served terminally ill children, so I didn't refer Anna myself. Plus, I was only worried about the “now” for a long time. So when we received that wonderful call in September 2016, saying Anna’s wish was approved, it was a great surprise.
Anna is not your average kid. She is “go big or go home.” She certainly wanted her wish to reflect that. She has loved the Dallas Mavericks since she was little, and she became a ball kid the year before her surgery. Her favorite player is power forward Dirk Nowitzki. Eventually, she decided: I wish to play H-O-R-S-E with Dirk.
The timing of Anna’s wish was perfect. We were struggling with what to do the coming Feb. 25, to avoid bringing up those awful memories for Anna. My daughter needed something to celebrate, at this point more than ever.
The night Anna’s wish came true, life was all about her. It wasn't just a night out. It was a moment in which she felt special. Dirk is her idol, and he lived up to her expectations. The time he and the Dallas Mavericks spent with my daughter essentially wiped out a bad memory. It hasn't been an easy journey after Anna’s surgery, but you can see her go back on that happy moment of her wish and it feels good.
Anna is still a Mavs ball kid, and she goes to every game now. As much as I can, I just let her get back to being a regular kid. We worry what we need to worry about, MRI to MRI.
I simply want to let her live her life as a teenager, and not as a kid who had a brain tumor. I think her wish helped us all allow her to do that.
Anna has also since done a few speaking engagements for Make-A-Wish. After the first time she spoke, she loved how it felt to share her story. Now, she dreams of being a sports broadcaster. She used to want to be a basketball coach, but Make-A-Wish has changed that for her.
Anna has found her different dream.
More kids like Anna are waiting for their wish to be granted.
In the year ahead, a child will be diagnosed with a critical illness every 20 minutes. And with each diagnosis, parents just like me will feel lost and alone. You can give these children and their families powerful wish experiences that arm them with a positive emotional outlook that cannot be undervalued, and are scientifically proven to improve the odds in a child’s fight against their critical illness. Together, we can bring those families the hope and strength they need to fight for the future.
It is the mission of Make-A-Wish to grant the wish of every eligible child. But with the cost of a wish averaging $10,000, the need for generosity is great. Can we count on you to help? DONATE TO MAKE-A-WISH
Anna’s wish was granted by Make-A-Wish North Texas.