To this day, Alice keeps a model of the original design for her “she-shed” in her home as a way to remember her wish experience.
When Alice was battling her way through the toughest parts of treatment, her social worker and oncologist reached out to Make-A-Wish to give her something positive to focus on at a time when she didn’t feel like she had anything to look forward to. “Because she was always going to have this looming threat of cancer, she wanted something that would be all hers, that would also always be there,” says Alice’s Mom, Linda. Rather than have a memory from a trip or just one day, Alice wanted something that she would get to enjoy every day, a place that she could go to escape the inexplicable anxiety of having a brain tumor. “Everything Alice went through was really hard and super scary, and she didn’t get the chance to feel normal. Knowing that with a medulloblastoma there’s a very real possibility for relapse, we didn’t want to put things off. When you’re unsure of what’s going to happen, it stops you from looking to the future and forces you to focus on the quality of life in the present,” says Linda.
While Alice was in the hospital being treated for a medullablastoma--a cancerous, malignant brain tumor that starts in the cerebellum--she made sure to always know when tiny house TV shows were on, her favorite distraction from what she was going through. Having spent so much time learning about tiny houses, Alice had a very clear idea of what she wanted her wish to look like. Working with Pat Sirois, the director of the Maine Sustainable Forest Initiative, and project manager for her wish, Alice came up with an elaborate, personalized, mermaid-themed tiny house. Pat helped to revise her vision for the space to make it functional, beautiful, and designed in a way that the space could grow and change with Alice.
Alice’s wish experience gave her a way to take her mind off her cancer, treatments, and the ways that her tumor had affected her life. Alice had to miss a year of school and move away from home to be in daily treatment, experienced disabilities as a result of surgical complications, and felt disconnected from her friends and community. However, on the day of her wish unveiling, Alice was able to bring some of her friends back into her world. While her wish granters were preparing her she-shed for its reveal, Alice and her friends took a limousine to “Laugh Loud, Smile Big,” her favorite cupcake shop in Rockport, Maine. They decorated cupcakes, went out to lunch, and went shopping to pick out décor for her tiny house. Her Mom, Linda, recalls, “Having cancer and having disabilities from surgery, and not being in school, Alice felt really alienated, she felt like she had lost a lot of friends—but having friends be a part of her wish was a way for her to share her experience and connect with them.”
Alice refers to the day that her wish was granted as “the best day of my life forever.” Her Mom says, “It carried her through the worst times, when she was so sad, and so depressed, and really didn’t feel like anything good was going to happen in her life. It was a marker in time, when she was done with treatment and just had to work on getting physically stronger. For her, it was a moment of ‘now I can start to live.’ For Alice, her wish isn’t a reminder of the pain she’s endured, but of the fact that she made it through everything she thought she wouldn’t. It is a reminder of her courage and grit, and of her support system. Linda says, “It was awesome for our whole family to see how many people care and volunteer their time and resources, because they know how important the work Make-A-Wish does is for kids like Alice.”
*Special thank you to Adopt-A-Wish Partner the Sustainable Forestry Initiative and Pat Sirois for making Alice's wish come true. SFI is a program designed to ensure that forests in Maine and across the country are managed sustainably. The Program fosters continuous improvement in forest management by requiring forest professionals – including landowners, loggers, and mill owners – to commit to ongoing research, continuing professional education, and consistent communication with the general public concerning developments within the SFI Program.
Story written by Marie Walton