When we reached Nina’s mom, Lynne, by phone, it was an important day—Nina’s port was being removed, ending a year-long battle with osteosarcoma that took part of her femur and tibia and spread to her lungs. Nina is “not out of the storm yet” according to her mom; she still needs monthly lung x-rays for a year to monitor their condition. But this didn’t stop Nina from attending her prom this spring, or from entering UCLA in the fall, where she hopes to study screenwriting.
Last year, Nina was a “super healthy kid” who had enjoyed skiing and hiking in Lake Tahoe with her family and had been going through a growth spurt. When her knee started to swell, her doctor prescribed physical therapy, but it didn’t help. The thought that there might be something seriously wrong with their daughter “never entered my mind” says Lynne. A visit with an orthopedist confirmed that Nina had a tumor, and that she needed to go immediately to Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital. Her treatments were “quick and intensive” and despite this “huge dose of bad news,” a social worker approached them with something that would prove to be “the one piece of good news Nina got” throughout her whole ordeal: she qualified for a wish.
Having spent about 110 days in the hospital over the course of the year, Nina had a lot of time to watch TV, and the show Parks & Recreation was something she especially enjoyed, saying the episodes “brighten up tough days for me.” Nina loves all the actors on the show, especially Amy Poehler, who she calls a role model. The cast offered her a range of dates in which to visit the set, and when they finally determined one, “it was a light at the end of the tunnel” for Nina. Her health took a turn for the worse, and she was hospitalized again, getting out two days before her wish trip. Her mom says those days were “a whirlwind, from extreme pain and discomfort to a dream come true.”
Nina’s wish went beyond her expectations. She met writers, producers and almost every cast member. At lunch with Amy Poehler and co-star Adam Scott, “Amy was incredibly funny and nice, and even took a picture with me on HER phone, which felt really awesome,” Nina wrote in her blog. Afterward, they invited Nina to go to a “cold read,” which is where the actors read through a script for an upcoming episode, and which was so secret that Nina’s parents weren’t allowed in. The next day, Nina watched the crew film a scene, and actor Chris Pratt presented her with a teddy bear, in honor of her becoming a bruin at UCLA. Writes Nina, “Although the past months have been full of trying times, a blessing found its way to me. I have never felt so lucky!!!”