"It all started when Pierce started complaining of back pain. We were in and out of urgent care trying to understand what was going on. I remember giving him Tylenol before his 6th birthday party and thinking this is not normal. In my gut, I knew something was wrong.
After our third urgent care visit in two weeks, the doctor told us we should get a scan of Pierce’s spine in case there was an infection, and he collected a blood sample. We left for a quick stop at home before heading to Stanford for the scan. Within five minutes of getting home, we received a call that Pierce’s blood showed irregularities, and it appeared he might have blood cancer. We were told to head straight to the ER. I grabbed pajamas and a blanket for Pierce, a sweatshirt for me and one for my husband, Peter, and then we rushed out the door.
Little did we know that Pierce would not be able to leave the hospital for the next six months.
I knew nothing about childhood leukemia. I assumed we would go into the hospital, get some tests, and then come home and assess our options. I had no idea the urgency that this disease demands from patients and their families. We had to make big decisions in the first two days of his diagnosis that could determine his outcomes. There was a tremendous amount of stress, adrenaline, anxiety, and desperation during the first couple weeks as we processed his diagnosis.
Peter and I made a pact not to bring those feelings with us into Pierce’s room. We made things light and bright and played with him and hugged him extra. We had an outpouring of support from friends and family, but we also didn't have the capacity for much more than the information at hand. We were isolated from visitors, emotionally fatigued, and worried about how to care for our daughter at home and her emotional state. We prayed and begged God for healing constantly.
An important part of Pierce’s treatment was helping him cope with his diagnosis, his disease, painful procedures, and the experience of having his everyday childhood enjoyments stripped from him. A child life specialist named Joy was assigned to Pierce to do just that. At first, Pierce was not too sure about Joy because she was telling him very heavy and hard things.
It wasn’t until two weeks later when Joy entered his hospital room with an iPad and said, “Hey Pierce, I want to tell you about Little Wishes. They want to help make your time here at the hospital easier. They want you to think about something that makes you smile, something that may bring you comfort, or something you love doing at home and want to do while you are at the hospital. Then we get to shop!”
With Little Wishes, Pierce was able to escape cancer treatment and shop, laugh with Joy, and, in that moment, just be a kid again. Instead of worrying about what chemo treatments lay ahead, he got to make his own choices and pick something after so many choices had been made for him and taken away from him.
Joy and the rest of the medical team delivered Pierce’s wish with fanfare, and he soon realized that every two weeks he could make a new wish. Pierce began to anticipate shopping with Joy for one of the many remote-controlled cars he drove around the hospital halls and really experienced what Little Wishes is all about. There were so many times he had nothing to look forward to, but Little Wishes was a constant for him and something that was his own that allowed him to dream.
For his last wish, Pierce said, “I want to be strong for when I get out of the hospital.” He wished for a stationary bike that he could use in his hospital room to build strength. We saw hope come into his eyes when he got that wish.
Pierce is in remission now. He's at home. He's riding his real bike. I want you to know that for our family and for Pierce, Little Wishes was more than just his wishes. It was a gift of a relationship with people who walked with us through dark times and brought light into our lives.
Little Wishes is a gift of being able to look forward to something, a gift of control when there's isn’t any, and most of all, Little Wishes is a gift of hope."