When Sachin was 8 years old, he found bruises around his knees that couldn’t be traced back to baseball, martial arts, swimming, or any of his other activities. His parents knew something was off.
“It seemed to be a strange thing to visit the doctor for, when he had never been sick,” says Sachin’s mother, Melanie. But doctors diagnosed him with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, and “by that evening he was living at the hospital.”
Of course, the family was in shock. “I had promised to give him a cupcake on the way to school for his bravery in getting his first blood draw,” recalls Melanie. “We now know that it was the beginning of the bravery he would have to show.”
Throughout his treatment and the accompanying side effects, Sachin has been strong and resilient. It helps that the family is always willing to discuss his treatment, no matter how difficult it is. “He has a rule that we have to talk honestly with him and not keep secrets,” says Melanie, “and that is what we do.”
Melanie describes Sachin as a passionate, curious, and social 9-year-old. A Palo Alto resident, he dreams of one day playing baseball for Stanford. And he loves to learn. In particular, he’s fascinated by penguins. The passion grew during his first-grade class, when Mrs. McCoy put penguins into her lesson plan.
The class even put on a penguin show for their parents, so they could show off their newfound knowledge. “Sachin was very excited to be a 'little blue' penguin,” says Melanie, “and he could tell you anything you may want to know about the life of a penguin.”
Sachin’s interest in penguins has only grown over the years, and he’s stocked up on penguin facts by watching nature documentaries. He’s been able to see penguins up close a few times at the Monterey Bay Aquarium and the San Francisco Zoo. “Strangers would often listen to facts that he would share,” says Melanie.
When he was referred to Make-A-Wish by his doctor, Melanie had no doubt that penguins would be a part of his wish. Sure enough, Sachin’s parents and his older brother, Savith, soon found themselves heading south (very far south!) for the winter on an unforgettable Antarctica Cruise.
“Sachin was the youngest guest on the ship and he was always smiling,” says Melanie, “so he became a local celebrity for both crew and guests.” Sachin and Savith bonded with just about everyone on the ship–the dining room staff did magic tricks and shared jokes to entertain them and the cabin staff taught them how to make a penguin out of towels.
“One day, a Quark expedition staff member jokingly named a small Antarctic island ‘Sachin Island’,” says Melanie. “He was so joyous.”
Unfortunately, Sachin did fall sick on the trip, developing pneumonia. Thankfully he recovered without missing much of the excitement, Melanie says. “That said, it was a reminder of how precious this trip is for delicate kids.”
Importantly, the cruise was a chance for Sachin and Savith to reconnect. “I feel that siblings are often overlooked when we are considering the impact of diseases such as cancer,” says Melanie. She says that Savith has been deeply impacted by Sachin’s condition. “He is very empathetic and watching his brother suffer has been difficult,” she explains.
For a while, the boys’ relationship was rocky, but Melanie says that “on the trip, both boys thrived.” The whole family even took a daring Antarctic plunge together, jumping into the frigid cold water. “I think it was a memory we will laugh about for years,” says Melanie.
The trip was also a get away from the routines of hospitalization. “When you live a month or even a week in the hospital, movies and video games become tiring,” explains Melanie, and “there are a lot of thoughtful and difficult discussions.” She says Sachin’s wish gave him hope during this difficult time.
An unexpected benefit: Sachin’s Make-A-Wish story served as a helpful icebreaker at the hospital, giving him something to talk about when friends would visit. “Kids were often nervous when they saw Sachin with so many cables and tubes coming out of his little body,” Melanie says.
Today, Sachin is in the maintenance period of his treatment, which Melanie describes as the “last and longest phase.” From now through the summer of 2021, he’ll be receiving oral chemotherapy at home every day, and require infusions at the hospital monthly. Currently, the family is working with doctors to find a combination of drugs that won’t have adverse side effects, which has been difficult.
But it isn’t stopping Sachin--he’s back to his martial arts lessons and playing baseball. And he’s still always learning–on the trip, Sachin mentioned to his mom that it would be amazing to study Antarctica in college.
“Kudos to everyone involved with making it happen,” says Melanie. “It was life-changing for all of us.”
Sachin's wish was adopted by our national partner, Trusted Choice, who raises funds to help grant high cost wishes each year. Our Adopt-A-Wish program offers a unique opportunity to make an immediate, direct, and substantial impact on the life of a child by underwriting the average cost of a wish with a donation of $10,000. Thank you, Trusted Choice, for helping make wishes like Sachin's come true!
We rely on wish referrals from caring individuals to help us reach more kids with critical illnesses every year. Anyone can refer a child and help grant them a wish that will provide them with lasting happy memories. Please visit the “Refer a Child” section of our website to learn more.