Thiago — my vibrant, energetic and passionate basketball player — arrived home from a game limping. He mentioned he had pulled a muscle and that another player had accidentally hit him. Both were common occurrences in the life of a fifteen year old boy.
Yet, that day something came over me, maybe it was divine intervention, insisting that I take him to the ER. I was hosting a holiday dinner party and had my guests were arriving within an hour. Therefore, as much as I wanted to ignore that nagging sensation, I could not.
That night, our nightmare began.
After his diagnosis and surgery, the oncologist began a regimen of three different chemo's. Week one was in-patient at the Scottish Rite AFLAC Cancer Center where Thiago would receive round the clock infusion of three different chemotherapy treatments. Week two and three would have two different chemotherapy treatments, and on week four he would rest before the same cycle began again.
Those treatments left my outgoing, strong, and vibrant teenager weak and broken. He could barely lift his head, no less be a part of his schools basketball team or be a typical teenager.
Once the treatments were completed, Thiago was ready to regain his energy, physique, and life, yet that process would take time. Time has never been on a teenage boys list of virtues. Thiago became increasingly frustrated with his diminished strength and inability to function at the same level he had before. His playing time was limited to a couple of minutes, his weight was still down and he simply had no energy at all.
He could not understand why this had to happen to him.
Two kind Make-A-Wish Georgia representatives came to visit us and listened carefully as Thiago spoke of his love for basketball and his desire to hang out with LeBron James and play one-on-one with him and the Miami Heat. That day, his transformation began.
Make-A-Wish teamed up with ESPN and the Miami Heat to grant him the most outrageous experience anyone could ever dream possible. They had Heat dancers surprise him with a video from LeBron inviting him to visit Miami. We toured the inner sanctions of the Heat organization and Thiago was equipped with his own locker, stocked with his own uniform and shoes.
He was later invited to practice with the entire team and eventually played one-on-one with LeBron, learning several tips from LeBron and Dwayne Wade. As if that were not enough, we were invited to the next day's game, invited to join in on warm up time, and sat next to Coach Eric Spoelstra throughout the game.
The first night in Miami, Thiago who was still in shock from the excitement of the day, came to me and asked me why him? How could something so extraordinary be happening to him?
You see, for years, he asked the same question regarding his disease. Because of Make-A-Wish Georgia, it was no longer about the disease, it was about the most extraordinary experience he could ever hope for. Make-A-Wish Georgia provided the means to heal him from the emotional scars left from his cancer.
The doctors healed his body, but it was his Make-A-Wish experience that healed his mind and soul. Thiago's Make-A-Wish experience was the turning point, a full circle from who he was to what the cancer made him and finally coming out on the other side better than where he began.