Though she’s only six years old, Rayna has had more ups and downs than most of us will ever know. In August 2007, at only three years of age, she was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. She went through treatment fairly bump free and seemed to be doing fine, returning to her usual spunky self.
However, soon after her return home, Rayna’s parents noticed that she had been getting sick more and more often. In December of 2008, the unimaginable happened when doctors broke the harrowing news; Rayna had relapsed.
“After relapse her treatment was much more intense,” says Rayna’s mother, Cindy. “She reacted more harshly and she had a lot of hospital stays. In 2009 she was probably in the hospital more than she was out. She also had other problems with her pancreas that involved other organs as a result of the treatment. She had Pancreatitis a few times. She had more than a few trips by ambulance into the city to the hospital.”
The ordeal affected both Rayna and her family, down to the core of who they were. They began to feel almost like prisoners of circumstance, never being able to feel secure in making even the simplest of plans.
“You can never plan anything because you don’t know what’s going to change,” explains Cindy. “And you don’t want to disappoint, especially Rayna. You don’t want to tell her she’s going to go see Grandma next weekend, and then she ends up in the hospital. It was always so disappointing to her.”
When Rayna was granted a wish from the Wish Foundation, she jumped on the chance to go to Disney World because of her infatuation with Disney princesses. She was over the moon, knowing she would get to meet some of these princesses, especially her favourite, Sleeping Beauty.
“When we found out about the wish,” says Cindy, “Rayna had been having a really tough day. She was so sick. It was shortly after her relapse. She was so down, nothing could make her smile. That day, when she found out she would get to meet the princesses, she was so happy. I’m sure that was the first smile I’d seen that whole hospital stay. ”
The family soon found that the idea of a trip to Disney World changed everything immensely. Suddenly, they had something to talk about, and something for the nurses to ask Rayna about. The Wish Foundation gave her a Disney World guidebook, and she would pass hours upon hours in the hospital, marking the pages of all the things she would see and do on her trip. For the first time in Rayna’s complicated life, she had something exhilarating to look forward to.
“Rayna started her fourth year of treatment in 2010,” says Cindy, “and the afterglow of this wish still lifts her spirits. She started grade one this fall, very anxious and nervous. She’s developed a lot of anxiety over the last three years and she’s really nervous about school. But she has her first Show and Tell in front of the class and she brought things from her wish, from Disney World, to show the kids. The impact of this gift is ongoing and I’m sure it will be for a long time.”