Anna’s wish brought her and her family full circle and back to Make-A-Wish. Today, nine years post-transplant, Anna is a healthy, beautiful college girl.
Anna was diagnosed with Acute lymphoblastic leukemia, September 25th, 2000, just after her 7th birthday. It was a diagnosis that her mom, Jane Rohweder, Director of Development at Make-A-Wish® Oklahoma, says “came out of the blue.” Anna was diagnosed with strep throat on Monday and by Friday of that week they were told it was cancer. “Anna is our only child and we were terrified and confused. She was very, very sick and it hurt my heart more than I can express,” says Jane. But Anna was a brave little patient and her and her family started down the 2 ½-year road of cancer treatment.
This is when Anna, her mom Jane, and dad John were introduced to Make-A-Wish® Oklahoma. Anna’s wish to go on a Disney Cruise was granted in 2002. She chose this wish because she had never been on a cruise. In fact, she had never even been on a boat. Anna watched the Disney Channel often when she was in the hospital - they had a special program about the new cruise ship for Disney Cruise Lines® and she knew immediately that was her wish.
When asked about their wish experience they describe it as being magical. Jane says, “the cruise was everything we imagined plus more. Anna felt good the entire trip and was able to enjoy all of the special attention she received. But for John and me it was more about the excitement and anticipation we saw on our daughter’s face in the weeks leading up to her wish coming true.”
Jane continues, “Anna’s countdown to her wish trip was not measured in days or weeks…rather, she would mark off the number of chemo treatments she had left until her wish came true. As parents it was uplifting and humbling to know that total strangers were making Anna’s wish come true. It was a wonderful blessing to our family.”
Six months after the end of cancer treatment, Anna’s cancer returned. On March 8th, 2004 Anna received a bone marrow transplant in Ft. Worth, TX.
After Anna’s wish, her and her family remained involved with Make-A-Wish® Oklahoma as ambassadors and volunteers. It was a way for them to give back and allow other families to have the experience of a wish. Shortly after Anna’s transplant, Jane accepted a position as Public Relations Director for Make-A-Wish® Oklahoma and has been on staff for nearly 9 years since! Anna is always right by her mom’s side helping at events, volunteering in the office, sharing her experience at speaking engagements and providing inspiration for families who are just beginning their journey down the road of life-threatening illnesses.
“Anna’s wish experience was a springboard to so many things in our lives but the biggest blessing is the people we’ve met through Make-A-Wish®. Many of the wish families, volunteers and staff are now life-long friends of our family. I believe Anna’s wish played a role in shaping her outlook on life. It helped her become the kind, giving, confident young lady she is today,” says Jane.
Today, Anna is beginning her sophomore year at the University of Arkansas where she is proud to be a member of the Chi Omega Sorority. Make-A-Wish® is Chi Omega’s philanthropy nationwide. Anna will be speaking to more than 1,600 incoming freshman during rush week – sharing her Make-A-Wish® experience and highlighting the importance of supporting this incredible mission. Most importantly, she remains healthy and happy.
Jane Rohweder, Wish Mom and Director of Development at Make-A-Wish® Oklahoma