Nearly sixteen years ago, a fun-loving and active young woman named Brandi was diagnosed with Stage 4 Synovial Cell Sarcoma, just days into the start of her senior year. The cancer, a very rare childhood soft tissue tumor, proved intrusive and dangerous. Not twenty-four hours after Brandi and her family received the news of the cancer, the September 11th terrorist attacks happened, turning the entire country into a confused and grieving state.
“I was sitting in class telling my friends and teachers about my cancer diagnosis and my world was crashing down,” reflected Brandi as she looked back on the infamous day, “Little did I know, within moments the planes would crash into the Pentagon and World Trade Center and the nation’s world came crashing down too.”
Brandi came to the realization then that her problems were ‘nothing compared to what others were facing’. Bravely, she decided to fight for her life because she was lucky enough to still have the chance to do so, which others who were recently impacted by the attacks didn’t have the chance to do.
“I still had a chance to fight when others didn’t and that’s exactly what I did,” Brandi explained, “My drive to beat cancer in honor of those who had no fight left helped me to fast track my treatment. What was supposed to take a year took four months.”
When she first met with her Wish Granters on her eighteenth birthday, Brandi’s parents considered all of the extravagant wishes she might choose. However, Brandi wasn’t thinking of herself when she decided what she wanted her wish to be. Instead she was thinking of others, which was what she did throughout her entire treatment.
“I wished to go to New York and give guardian angel pins to children and families who lost loved ones on 9/11,” said eighteen-year-old Brandi.
Her family, Wish Granters and local community members were so impressed with the maturity and understanding such a young woman could have of the world. Although she was dealt an extremely difficult hand, she never once took pity on herself and instead used the energy to do well for those around her.
Brandi’s travel to New York City made a lasting impact on her that she still recalls in vivid detail all these years later. The limo drove them around the city making stops at the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building and of course, Ground Zero.
At that time, the devastation from the attack was still visible to everyone in the area.
For the last part of her wish, Brandi visited the Port Authority, which she remembers as the hardest yet most rewarding part. She formed a close bond with one young girl named Gianna who had just lost her father in the attacks. Brandi explained the girl was ‘glued to her the entire time and even asked if I could take her home with me’. Although she would have if she could, Brandi explained to Gianna that she had to stay in New York with her family but she gave her the cross necklace she had been wearing as something to remember her by.
“My wish and battle with cancer was proof to them that after tragedy, there still is life, don’t stop fighting,” reflected Brandi on her wish, “I will never forget my time in New York. It made me stronger and more aware of how precious life is”.
This past spring, our chapter celebrated our 25th anniversary with a Gala. At the Gala, Brandi shared her story with hundreds of people of how her wish changed her life.
Just as Brandi finished speaking, the emcee thanked her and told her they had one more surprise. Before she knew what was happening, Gianna, the little girl from the Port Authority in New York, was practically running onto the stage. Except Gianna wasn’t the same scared little girl anymore, she had flourished into a beautiful and confident young woman. The two shared a long embrace; amazed they were finally reunited after 15 years while the audience sat in awe experiencing first-hand the power of a wish.
Since her time in New York, Brandi has experienced more hardships, fighting (and winning) a second battle with cancer and losing a daughter and two step brothers. However, just like she did with her first cancer diagnosis when she was seventeen, she was sure to find the positive when her world got tough.
“Much like the angel pins I handed out, it’s the kind little things that help us all grieve and lift us up,” shared Brandi as she looked back on her favorite poem, “An angel may not take away the pain, an angel may not bring someone back, but remember you will always have a guardian angel by your side.”