Make-A-Wish Trip To Disney World Helps Heal Local Family's Cance - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Make-A-Wish Trip To Disney World Helps Heal Local Family's Cancer Wounds

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Photo of Olivia with her sister Photo of Olivia with her sister
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KHQ.COM - Just over a year ago, 4-year-old Olivia Allen was not the bubbly, high-energy, pre-schooler she is today.  On the contrary, she was, as her mom Kristi put it, "miserable, scared, and sick." In January 2012, Olivia was diagnosed with hyperblastoma, an extremely rare form of liver cancer.

By the time 2-year-old Olivia was diagnosed with her cancer, the tumor on her liver was already the size of a grapefruit.  And, while there was not a lot to be happy about during her treatment, a Make-A-Wish trip to Disney World remained the light at the end of the tunnel for not only Olivia, but her entire family. "Part of her [Olivia's] prime entertainment was our iPad," explained Kristi. We had a Disney app...she could get in there, visit Disney, and see all the things we promised her would come at the end of treatment." But even with the promise of Disney at the end of her treatment, Olivia's cancer was trying on the entire family. "On that very day she was diagnosed, that was the end of life as we knew it," explained Kristi.

For example, Kristi and her husband Jesse had to pull their older daughter, Myah, out of school and all after school activities to reduce the amount of germs coming into their home. "It's an interruption to your life but it's also a loss of innocence," said Kristi. "As parents, you hope what you can do is keep your family safe and protected, and the rules kind of change because there is nothing you can do to prevent what happened to our daughter." Jesse explained how that the dynamic of their family was turned completely upside down because they were constantly at the hospital. "We have two kids, but one of us was always at the hospital, one of us is gone, we swap, so we're never together," explained Jesse. "And when we were together, Olivia felt so awful, that it was just constant work...when we had family time it wasn't great, it was difficult."

Olivia's cancer was taking a toll on them mentally too. "I think it's really hard when your child has a life-threatening disease, and you don't know if they're going to live through it," said Jesse. "A lot of times I caught myself thinking, is this going to be my last memories of my child? Being miserable? Which makes it even harder, because you just don't know." Luckily, at the end of 6-months of intense chemotherapy, Olivia was declared cancer free.

Her family took the Make-A-Wish trip to Disney World at Christmast-time of 2012. "We started January with a cancer diagnosis, and we ended the year with a trip to Disney World," explained Kristi. "It was a fitting end to that year, that started so horribly, but ended in a place of healing, and fun." On her trip, Olivia met countless Disney Princesses and ate ice cream for almost every meal of the day. But, that was not the best part of the trip. According to Kristi and Jesse, it was a chance for their kids to be kids again, and for their family to reconnect and start healing their cancer wounds.

"[A trip like this] helps a lot because you get so used to dealing with crisis, you forget how to be a family," said Jesse. "It gave us a chance to reboot as a family, have fun...it was a huge blessing to learn how to have fun again." Olivia has been cancer free for over a year now, and according to her proud parents, she is doing very well. She regained her ability to walk and her spunky spirit. She and her sister are now busy with skiing and ballet.

"I feel great," beamed Olivia. "I feel really happy." And, because Olivia was so young during her treatment, her parents are committed to making sure she understands the love they received when they were working to make sure their daughter became healthy. "You lose a lot when you're told your daughter has cancer," said Kristi. "It kind of fractures what you know to be true about the world, and things like Make-A-Wish help you put those pieces back together again."


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