By BECKY FLETCHE
Jason and Blake Peterson fought all the time while growing up like typical brothers. But when Blake became ill, they developed an even more powerful bond.
“Jason and Blake became very close and Jason refused to leave Blake’s side while he was dying,” explains Peggy, the boys’ mother.
There was a depth to their friendship that comes only from sharing a common struggle and a dream. Their struggle was cancer. Their dream was a wish provided by the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
A nonprofit organization, Make-A-Wish Foundation’s goal is to grant the most fervent desires of children who have life-threatening illnesses.
Cancer brought the boys together, but the wish gave them hope.
They were eligible to receive their wish. Any Utah child under 18 and over two and a half, who has been diagnosed with a terminal illness or life-threatening medical condition is eligible, according to a Utah Make-A-Wish chapter news release.
Both of Peggy’s two oldest children were diagnosed with two unrelated forms of cancer. Jason had cancer treatable only by surgery, while Blake’s leukemia responded to chemotherapy.
“I think watching Blake go through chemotherapy changed Jason in that he decided that his disease ‘was a small thing’ compared to the pain that Blake daily endured” says their father, Tim.
The family struggled with the knowledge that both youth had potentially fatal illnesses.
“When Jason, our oldest, was diagnosed with his cancer, we thought our lives would never be the same, and in many ways, they won’t be,” Peggy says. “But when Blake was diagnosed with his leukemia, we were totally devastated.”
A social worker answered questions and told them about the Make-A-Wish program.
“Blake surprised Jason for Christmas by making him a card that told him that his social worker had made arrangements for Jason to also receive a wish,” Tim said.
Blake never actually got to make his wish through Make-A-Wish. “We’re working against nature’s deadline, not ours,” says Jane Martens, founder of the Washington, D.C., chapter. “We often have to work fast.”
The chapter assigned a volunteer wish team who coordinated the wish. The team visited Jason and the family to determine his wish.
“He and Blake thought a lot about what to wish for. Blake wanted to see Cindy Crawford but decided that it would be over in a few minutes, whereas a computer or entertainment system would last years,” Tim said.
“They had decided that they wanted computer systems that they could combine and work together,” Martens said. And on his birthday about a month later, he received his computer system.
Make-A-Wish gave Jason a Macintosh computer, scanner, printer and monitor. The package was valued at about $3,000.
Make-A-Wish ensures all wishes are age appropriate and according to the child’s own desires.
With the added optimism and dreams originated by the “wish,” Jason has hope for tomorrow.
“The great power of the making of a wish is that for the time a child is thinking of making his wish, he is not thinking of dying or of his illness. It also gives him a hope of a ‘tomorrow,'” Tim said. “It’s a way of thinking beyond his illness.”
Thinking of a “wish” was an activity that drew Blake, Jason and their father closer together. “It was the three of us. We talked about different ideas,” Jason said.
The foundation helped the family keep going with smiles and laughter.
“Make-A-Wish is such a wonderful organization,” Peggy said. “For many children, it’s all they have to look forward to and for many, it’s what keeps them going.”
The wish eased the pain of cancer.
“I wish I could put into words what an incredible thing Make-A-Wish Foundation does for the lives of children who are sick,” Tim said.
The wish expenses were fully covered. The average wish costs $3,200 in cash and $2,600 in donated goods and services, the Utah Chapter reports. Wish costs vary from as little as nothing at all to quite expensive.
“All of the articles that are written and things that are said about kids with cancer, describe them as having ‘terminal’ or ‘fatal’ illnesses, even Make-A-Wish often uses the terms,” Tim says. “It really bothers them. They have ‘life threatening’ illnesses, which suggest a hope beyond their sickness. It suggests that they can beat it. That there will be another tomorrow.