“I wish to have a tennis racket”
12 years old, Buckinghamshire
Twelve-year-old Mary from Buckinghamshire has a thirst for life and enjoys having fun and laughing a lot. She’s creative and has a flair for drawing and painting, as well as a talent for netball and tennis.
But Mary has not always enjoyed good health. During her first year at primary school, she went back and forth to the doctors to no avail. Suspecting a virus, she went on holiday to France with her family but deteriorated, with an unrelenting nosebleed and exhaustion.
Mary had a blood transfusion within half an hour of being admitted to a French hospital and two days later her family was told the shocking news that she had leukaemia.
Mary’s mum, Victoria, said: “We were in isolation for five days and then we were flown home in a private ambulance plane. It was tricky in France due to the language barrier. We knew it was cancer, as we were on the cancer ward, although we couldn’t believe it.”
More than two years of chemotherapy followed – something that caused nasty side effects. Victoria said: “Mary hated taking the medication. She had many muscle aches and pains and was very sick with the chemo. She also suffered with burst capillaries in the face and neck.”
Mary’s illness affected the whole family: her mum had to give up work and become her carer, her dad Mark felt the pressure of being the sole breadwinner, her brother William had to grow up quickly, become more independent and he worried about Mary being taken ill without warning; not knowing who might be picking him up from school that day.
"Work took on a different significance. Victoria and I were leading separate lives and I had to keep a sense of normality with our son. The uncertainty of not knowing when the disruption and upset was coming was hard."
Mary was referred to Make-A-Wish by CLIC Sargent whilst in hospital, and she knew straight away her wish was to go in a hot air balloon. She said: “I wanted to be able to do something I didn’t think I would get to do.”
However, after five attempts at taking to the skies were called off due to the weather, leaving Mary heartbroken, she decided to change her wish to something that could not be cancelled. So, Mary’s Wishgranter, Eszter, made all the necessary arrangements and helped Mary change her wish to something just as meaningful to her.
The only other thing that Mary wished for was to have a new, top of the range, adult tennis racket to improve her game and help her excel in her passion for the game, which was also helping her to keep fit and make friends.
Mary had started playing tennis to keep herself active during her treatment and not long after joining a club, she was picked for the team and started playing for two hours a week.
Victoria explained how tennis helped at such a crucial time: “It kept her mobile, it was a safe environment and she really looked forward to it.”
How Mary's wish has helpd
After playing with it for the first time, Mary said: “I came onto the court and no one noticed until I pulled it out of my new bag. Then, my coach looked stunned and everyone said how nice it was. Using it felt wild and powerful. It has improved my game and now I’m more advanced as a player.”
Mark explained the value of a wish...
"What the kids have to go through physically and mentally at such a young age is so tough. To have something special that recognises that, is a real gift to be able to receive. It marks that moment through all the negative stuff. It is a symbol of the future and being better."
He concluded: “For the children, ‘Why me?’ turns to ‘I am no different.’”
Mary’s parting advice to others in difficult situations is: “You need to stay strong and be positive. You only get one life.”
With the help of her wish, Mary is certainly making the most of hers.
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