Liam’s mother, Amy, recalls one night when Liam was hospitalized during his cancer treatments, she and her husband Andy were waiting for the late-night cafeteria to open so that they could grab a bite to eat.
“You guys should leave and have a nice dinner!” she remembers Liam suggesting. They pushed back, saying they didn’t mind just popping down to the cafeteria, but Liam insisted. “I have my cell phone,” he said, “I have the nurses’ call button. If I need anything, I’ll just let you know”.
Nervously, Amy and Andy agreed, and headed down the street to a restaurant. Twenty minutes into dinner, Amy received a text from Liam. It read: “I hope you’re enjoying your dinner!”
“He’s always been such a sweet, sweet boy,” says Amy.
Liam had always been a healthy child, only needing to visit his doctor every year around his birthday for his annual checkup. But just before his 9th birthday, Liam woke up with an upset stomach. “Anything he ate, he couldn’t hold down,” says Amy.
Doctors at the urgent care office told the family it was likely the common stomach flu, which was going around at the time, and that Liam simply needed rest and fluids. But after two weeks, Liam still wasn’t getting better.
They visited his pediatrician, who said he could still be suffering the effects of his stomach flu and a weakened stomach lining. An X-ray didn’t show anything unusual.
Liam was always a happy-go-lucky kid, but something changed when he got sick. “The worst was before his diagnosis,” says Amy, “when something was wrong, but no one knew what. We definitely saw changes, that he was just not himself.”
Amy recalls that one morning, Liam said: “I thought life was fun and games, and now it’s so sad.”
On a trip to visit family in Hawaii, Liam’s condition suddenly worsened. “A couple of days in, he got really weak, and wasn’t able to walk for more than 20 feet without having to stop and rest,” says Amy.
Liam was taken to the ER in Hawaii and ultimately referred back to his specialist at home for further testing via colonoscopy. Back in San Jose, doctors found a mass, which they sent off to be biopsied. The next day, Amy received a call asking them to head straight to the Lucille Packard Children’s Hospital, where an oncologist would meet them.
“We didn’t know much,” said Amy. “They said it might be some kind of lymphoma. At that time, I didn’t even know what lymphoma was. So, it was really scary.”
At a little over 9 years old, Liam began his chemotherapy treatment. His initial hospitalization was five weeks. “He was such a trooper,” says Amy. “He did everything really well.”
While Liam was at the hospital undergoing his treatment, his child-life specialist let the family know that Liam qualified for a wish. At the time, Liam had been playing golf for about a year, and really loved it, so he knew he wanted to do something related to golf.
The family had heard of the Ryder Cup, a golf competition between teams from Europe and the United States, and thought it would be a great opportunity to see many of Liam’s favorite golfers in one place. Little did they know, that year the Ryder Cup would be taking place in Paris. “When we looked at the location and saw that it was in Paris,” says Amy, “Liam, Andy, and I were completely floored. We couldn’t believe it.”
When Liam settled on his wish, he knew there might be a significant wait before all the details were confirmed–the Paris Ryder Cup wasn’t scheduled until next September. But the possibility of meeting some of his favorite golfers “really perked him up and helped lift his spirit,” says Amy.
The following July, Amy received word that Liam’s wish was moving forward. “I got so emotional when I got the call that it was likely going to happen,” says Amy. “I knew how much it would mean to him."
Liam’s wish granters chose Liam’s favorite local public golf course, just a couple of miles from the family’s home, to reveal the big news. “We joke that he’s the mayor of the golf course,” says Amy, “because he knows all of the coaches, the kids that come through, he even knows the bartenders–he’ll go up and order an Arnold Palmer from them.”
“Liam, you’re needed in the Pro Shop!” boomed over the loudspeaker. Upon arriving at the shop, Liam learned that in just a few days he, his parents, and his sister, Olivia, would be heading to Paris for the Ryder Cup.
“He was just speechless, it was really cute,” says Amy. “He was so excited.”
For the next few days, Liam’s excitement continued to grow. He kept asking “Can you pinch me? Is this real? Are we really going?”
They really were, and early too! At 3 a.m., the limo arrived to take the family to the airport. “Once the kids saw it, they were wide awake,” says Amy. “They had so much fun in the limo, they couldn’t believe it. I think they wished our drive was longer.”
When the family arrived at the airport, they were greeted with balloons and welcome signage from American Airlines. “They were just so nice,” says Amy. “We got to meet everyone in the crew, including the pilot. Liam and Olivia got to sit in the cockpit and got ice cream sundaes.”
The family soon arrived at their Airbnb near the Ryder Cup, about 30 miles south of the city in a suburban area. They had a free day to explore the city. They saw the Eiffel Tower, walked along the scenic avenues and checked out all the shops, and Liam got to try escargot–a dish that Amy and Andy were surprised to learn that he quite enjoyed.
“I was ready for him to spit it in his napkin,” says Amy, “but he ate it, and then he asked for more. And then when he was done with those six, he asked if he could order another six. It really was incredible.”
The next day, they were off to the Ryder Cup. “Everyone was so friendly,” says Amy, and they received “so many encouraging words, and Liam got a ton of high fives from everyone.” Liam got to see many of his favorite golfers up close and watch them as they practiced and played golf. As they were leaving, he was able to get several autographs.
Amy says one of the best moments from the trip came as a complete surprise. While at the cup, Liam noticed another boy who was wearing a Make-A-Wish hat. They learned that he was a wish kid named Seb, visiting from London, England, who had made the exact same wish. The two boys got a photo taken together (right) and bonded over their similar circumstances. “That was a really neat way to cap off our trip,” says Amy.
Looking back on their trip, Amy is incredibly grateful for the opportunity to spend time together, as a family. “Our daughter, she was five years old at the time,” she explains, “and when we were going through our chemo treatments, I would be at the hospital with Liam during the weekdays, and then I would switch off with Andy on the weekends.”
For one long year, the family had virtually no chance to be all together, but Paris reunited them. “We’re so grateful,” says Amy. “It really was a life-changing experience. Not just for Liam, but for Andy, myself, and Olivia.”
Two years post chemo, Liam is phasing out his visits to the oncologist. “He’s actually doing so well that it’s almost as if he didn’t go through everything,” says Amy. “It’s really amazing. We just feel so blessed.”
Liam has been able to return to the fun and games that should mark the life of a 6th grader. He recently won his election for student body president. He continues to golf several days a week and will be competing in a tournament in Phoenix in the spring. The family has another trip to Hawaii planned, so Liam will be able to relax with family, under happier conditions this time.
Amy says that, thanks in large part to Make-A-Wish, Liam is back to that same happy-go-lucky kid she remembers. “The possibility of the wish really lifted his spirits up during treatment,” she says.
“It’s funny,” she reflects, “you just appreciate normal everyday life and learn not to take that for granted. I think we’re just enjoying having each other together in good health.”
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