Trapped in the hospital, 17-year-old Robin felt the walls closing in. Her diabetes had been one thing, but an added leukemia diagnosis left her feeling sick nearly all the time. The medication threw off her sugars, and in addition to chemotherapy causing nausea and hair loss, Robin would catch infections after every round of treatment. After seven months in remission, she relapsed and was back in the hospital preparing for a bone marrow transplant. This time, the rules were even stricter, and it was frustrating to watch other kids leave the hospital week after week while she could not even leave her room.
To cope with this incredibly difficult journey, Robin found comfort in her favorite fictional characters, Harry Potter and Peter Pan. She would leave her hospital window open at night with the hope that Peter and Tinkerbell might stop by to whisk her away from the hospital to Neverland.
Although Robin describes the ritual as “little kiddish,” her mom Julie knows that it allowed Robin an important opportunity to feel like a child when so much of her life was robbed of the chance at a ‘normal’ childhood. “She missed out on two years of life and school going to treatment,” Julie remembers.
Fewer visitors came to the hospital after Robin’s relapse, making things even more difficult. Luckily, she found a friend in fellow wish kid Ally, who was undergoing treatment for bone cancer. The two bonded over their shared love of characters like Harry Potter, and both wished to visit the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando. This wish was the perfect fit for Robin, because it also allowed her to see Peter Pan at nearby Walt Disney World.
Highlights of the wish included sipping on butterbeer and riding rollercoasters, an experience Robin was able to fall in love with all over again. “Since I wasn’t able to go anywhere for a long time, getting back on [a rollercoaster] was exhilarating. I had forgotten what your stomach rising up felt like, and to be reminded of it made me happy,” she says.
And of course, there was Peter. After many nights hoping for a shadow to fly past, she was finally able to meet the boy who never grew up in person. On Peter Pan’s Flight, Robin entered the world she had envisioned during treatment.
For her family, the wish was also an opportunity to enjoy simply being together. Quality time had been hard to come by, because in addition to juggling the busy schedules of family members, Robin’s treatments would sometimes put her in isolation. Here, hospital walls were not there to keep the family apart. Everyone could relax, have fun, and enjoy each other’s company. In those moments, the worries of the world seemed to melt away.
Months before, Robin had been asked what a wish come true would mean to her. “[It] would mean that I am free again, and I can finally do the things in life that I always wanted to do. Since my diagnosis and relapse, I’ve always been told ‘don’t sit in the sun… don’t go to crowded places… you’re not allowed to do that,’” she explained.
And when her wish did come true, she reflected on the role it played in an otherwise difficult time. “When I was in the hospital, I used my wish as motivation to keep fighting. Like every child going through tough medical treatment, there were times where I’d want to give up,” she said. “However, the idea of having a reward when everything was done kept me going. When I was finally able to claim that reward, it was as if those two harsh years of treatment were worth it.”