Today, six-year-old Paige wants to be a cheerleader when she grows up. And anyone who witnesses her exuberance and energy will attest that there is no reason to doubt that she will reach that goal. She is fun-loving, happy and full of life. But before she turned two, Paige was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia.
As Paige’s mother Michelle recalls the day of her diagnosis, the emotions come flooding back. She remembers trying to muster the necessary courage to face the months ahead as a nurse took her by the hand and told her that she and Paige were now embarking on a new journey. One vision became ever-present in her mind: “Together, we will fight this monster, and together, we will win!”
The journey was a harrowing one consisting of prolonged hospital stays, chemotherapy treatments, and what mother and daughter called “pokes”: the many needles and injections that were part of her treatment.
Though her mother tried to maintain as sense of normalcy in Paige’s life, it was anything but normal. Her new circle of friends consisted of nurses, oncologists, surgeons and social workers. It made for a very isolated childhood. When Paige’s immune system was so greatly compromised, there were no play dates, no visitors and she couldn’t even go to the children’s ward playroom.
During this time, Michelle met several other parents of sick children who informed her that, when Paige turned three, she would be eligible to receive a wish from The Children’s Wish Foundation of Canada. Michelle remained focused on fighting the monster, but the wish remained in the back of her mind.
After Paige turned three, she was still undergoing chemotherapy, and occasionally, Michelle would talk to Paige about what she might like for her wish, wanting to make sure that the final choice would be one that would bring her child the greatest possible joy. Then one day, as they drove by a playground covered in snow, Paige asked her mother “Can I have that?” Michelle’s instant response was “ummmm, no honey.” Her heart sank as she watched the disappointed face in the rearview mirror. Then the ‘a-ha moment’ came, and her answer quickly became “Yes, you can have that.”
“On that day, our journey took a different turn,” remembers Michelle.
The anticipation of its arrival was almost unbearable. Paige counted down her treatments in the same way that many kids count down the number of sleeps until summer vacation. She would tell her doctors “Only three more pokes ‘til wish comes!” Michelle recalls with gratitude “As the mom, who for months, watched as she dreaded her treatment visits, it was so comforting to see a whole new attitude.”
Then the day came when Paige’s long-awaited wish came true. She waited at the window for what seemed a very long time until her playhouse finally came into view, on the back of a truck. “Mom! My playhouse is here!” she screamed.
Michelle recalls that moment fondly, with tears in her eyes: “I will never forget coming around the corner, and she looked at me and grabbed my hand and she said ‘Mommy, that’s mine. I get that’.” For Paige, her wish was the light at the end of the tunnel and the reward for getting through an extraordinarily difficult ordeal. For Michelle, the reward is Paige’s health and well-being. Today, Paige is in remission, happy, healthy and surrounded by children who love to play with her in her playhouse.