Before being diagnosed with leukemia, 17-year-old JT was a popular and sociable senior who aspired to join the U.S. Army after graduation. His plans had to be put on hold, however, when his doctors informed him that the flu he thought he was fighting was actually cancer, and he immediately started chemotherapy treatments.
Over the next 18 months, JT was transferred in and out of hospital rooms and chemotherapy regiments, poked with needles and IVs, and hooked up to a port in his chest for medicine. He lost his hair 4 separate times during treatments and found himself being physically and mentally exhausted with each new session of chemotherapy.
Even worse, the timing of JT’s treatments caused him to miss the last half of his senior year of high school, so while he watched his friends move on to college, jobs and marriage, he felt stuck in a rut while he finished medical trials at home. With all of this in mind, JT’s mom wanted to brighten her son’s spirits, so she referred him to Make-A-Wish® Utah. After a little deliberation, JT decided to wish to go to Hawaii—a wish that ultimately became a game-changer in JT’s overall outlook.
On his trip, JT almost never came out of the ocean. He loved the water and his mom said it was great to see him having fun on the beaches. He and his family took an excursion to swim with dolphins, went stand-up paddle boarding, and even attended a special luau with a local chief who taught JT how to braid leaves for headbands and throw spears. The chief gifted JT his malo, a traditional Hawaiian garment, which was JT’s favorite keepsake from the trip.
JT’s mom said that his wish was a great way for him and his family to reconnect after spending so much time away from one another while he was in the hospital. “We were just normal for that week,” she explained. “I think that was the biggest thing. We had a lot of fun and we were able to try things that we hadn’t before. We were just a family on vacation—not a sick family, just a normal family on vacation.”