Make a Wish Home Edition

Our daughter Marti Kwait was diagnosed with Stage 3 High-risk Neuroblastoma at 18 months old. Neuroblastoma is a really aggressive type of childhood cancer, and requires intense treatment including five rounds of chemotherapy, seven surgeries, two bone marrow transplants and 14 days of radiation, among other treatments. She was in active treatment for over a year, including months at a time confined to a hospital room while her body recovered from chemo that completely destroyed her immune system.

Imagine a toddler, who doesn’t understand why she hurts, who has no choice but to submit to the demands of doctors and nurses and can’t leave a room, or even their bed, or have visitors or new toys for days on end. TV becomes a constant companion, trying to alleviate the boredom of the situation. But even a toddler will get bored with cartoons and kid’s shows after just a little while.

Marti started to watch Animal Planet, captivated by Steve Irwin and his enthusiasm for all animals, especially exotic ones. As her body started to recover, her love of all things animal didn’t go away. On trips to zoos, aquariums, museums and nature centers it became obvious that she had been absorbing every fact she’d seen on TV when she told us those facts without prompting.

Back then, Make a Wish’s rules indicated that a survivor had until the age of 18 to request a wish. We were happy that she was a survivor, but knew that a wish wouldn’t mean as much when she was three or four as it would when she was older. So we decided to wait and started to think about it when she was nearing 10.

Just before her 10th birthday, we found out she had Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis, which is very similar to Rheumatoid Arthritis. Before we knew it, we were back into an active treatment. Because of her history, Marti couldn’t take standard RA treatments, as they all carry a higher risk of cancer. She endured joint injections, physical and occupational therapy and methotrexate shots, which caused weekly nausea that rivaled any she had in her earlier treatment.

We put off applying for her wish again, wanting to wait to see if she could get into remission from this or at least until she felt well enough to enjoy herself on a trip. She was in treatment for four years before her Rheumatologist was willing to try to take her off treatment; that was a year and a half ago and so far, so good. She is healthier than she has been in a long time, and is still every bit an animal expert. She volunteers at a zoo and plans on a future in zoo education programming.

When we finally decided to reach out to Make a Wish, they told us their rules had changed, and Marti was now too far out from treatment to be eligible. We were disappointed, especially because her aunt is temporarily living in Brisbane Australia, the home of Steve Irwin’s zoo and that meant we have a place to stay.

We are raising funds to make this lifelong dream come true. Funds will be used for airfare to Australia and for incidental expenses. This kid has been through hell, and has endured it with very little self-pity. Her love of zoology has often been an inspiration for her to keep working to get better, and we would like to celebrate her success with a trip to the zoo that was the inspiration for that love. Please help us grant this wish!


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Jeffrey Kwait 
Harleysville, PA
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