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This past summer, young Rose had her wish come true. She and her twin sister Nina are alike in so many ways. Save a small birthmark on Rose’s chin and Nina being a little bit taller, they are identical. By their parent’s accounts, they’re both quite shy. Both kids love to dance, both love to ski and both love to ride bikes. They are “equally persistent and feisty,” as their mother, Ginny, suggests. But there is one major difference between them: Rose has had to endure a battle with leukemia. Her sister is her constant supporter and was by her side as Rose faced her critical illness.
“Rose caught a cough that Nina didn’t have,” said Ginny, “and that was unusual for her sister not to get the same cold. Rose started sleeping more, and she was pale.” That was all the evidence Rose’s parents needed to go see a doctor. She was diagnosed with Leukemia when she was 22 months old.
“It was terrifying,” said Ginny. Rose’s dad, Jeremy, explained that Rose was airlifted from their hometown to Vancouver, where there was an initial 10-day stay in BC Children’s Hospital followed by a further half year of treatments.
“As a parent,” said Ginny, “You’re just coping, making sure the [kids] don’t get upset or alarmed by what’s happening through it all.”
“We’re still dealing with living through that trauma,” added Jeremy. Rose’s twin was also affected by the experience, with so much focus on Rose for so long, it was, at times hard on Nina, who her parents felt took on a lot of the stress for her sister. “Nina is more sensitive than Rose,” they said.
At the end of all the treatments and hospital stays, and time away from home, there came a period of recovery, and finally, when Rose was truly ready and able, a wish was granted by Make-A-Wish.
“Rose seems to light up around animals,” said Ginny. Jeremy says they’ve watched Finding Nemo dozens of times. “We all watch Blue Planet as a family,” Ginny also noted, adding that when they lived in Vancouver for treatments, there were regular trips to the Vancouver Aquarium. Rose seemed particularly interested in the shark tank, where one of the aquarium’s most famous long-time residents also lives: a sea turtle named Schoona. Eventually, Rose made a wish to release baby sea turtles.
The family travelled to Florida and the Gumbo Limbo Nature Centre to have Rose’s wish come true. While they were there, it wasn’t only baby turtles that were hatched. Ginny and Jeremy watched their own daughters come out of their shells a bit, too.
“Where normally they are so shy, they sat right upfront during the education sessions at Gumbo Limbo,” explained Ginny. “They answered questions and were so engaged. It was special to see that.”
Rose got to take part in a public sea turtle release as well as a special, private release with her sister and parents on a warm, dark, Florida night. There, on the beach, the family watched as tiny sea turtles scooted their way across the sand. A new life in the ocean for the turtles, and a granted wish for Rose.
The family is back home now, and Jeremy and Ginny feel as though they’re able to close a chapter on the whole experience with cancer. The girls have started kindergarten this year and life feels more normal. They say that a lot of Rose’s sentences start with ‘at Florida…’ as she looks back on her wish experience of releasing baby sea turtles. A happier thing to remember than any time spent in the hospital.