At ten years old, Rachel was diagnosed with the gastrointestinal disorder that she will live with the rest of her life. Her parents, Andra and Alexander, are both physicians. So the shocking news came with an added level of awareness about what it really meant.
Says Andra, “Knowing she’ll never be cured was really difficult for us.” As they watched her get sick they looked at things differently, knowing things would never go back to normal. At first, Rachel was really scared. She says she felt sad, and “I always felt different, not normal.”
Being referred to Make-A-Wish started to change that perception. “It made me feel really lucky to have the opportunity” says Rachel. “I was super happy.” Andra adds, “you’re excited for your child that finally, something positive is happening” because of their illness.
She knew Rachel would get to experience something her peers wouldn’t be able to. And although her parents are physicians, or maybe because of it, Rachel’s favorite show is Grey’s Anatomy. She wanted her wish to be something “really special and memorable” so she decided to visit the set. What she found when she got there was, “everyone was so excited to see me and didn't treat me with sympathy just because I have a disease. They made me feel super super welcome. They were really nice.” Her favorite part was meeting Ellen Pompeo.
Seeing how kindly everyone treated Rachel was a highlight for Andra too. “It really gave her hope. She was so excited and my favorite part of the wish was how special she felt, like a celebrity.” Everyone greeted her so warmly, and actors who weren’t even scheduled to be there made a point to meet her.
Reflecting on the wish, Andra says, “Her illness took away her voice a little, but this gave that back to her.” For Rachel’s part, she has gained confidence and realized she can cope with her condition. “My disease doesn’t define me in a negative way anymore. Because of my disease, with my friends, I feel different, but this made me feel different in a good kind of way.”
Inspired to give back, Rachel has joined the 2018-2019 Make-A-Wish Greater Bay Area Youth Board.