We’ve all heard the cliché saying, “Everything happens for a reason.” It’s often hard to focus on the magnitude of what that means, especially amid the difficult circumstances that make up our lives.
For Kelli, she is an avid believer in everything happening for a reason and that mindset is no different when it comes to her own story.
During Kelli’s sophomore year in high school, she noticed a lump forming on her neck. After a few weeks she and her family began to get concerned. At the urgency of her mother, Kelli went to see her pediatrician. Immediately, her doctor sent her to the local children’s hospital where Kelli was admitted for the night. From that point on, Kelli’s life would change forever—she was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
“It was very surreal,” said Kelli.
“I remember the pediatrician telling us we immediately needed to go to the hospital and us asking, ‘How serious is this? Do we have to go right now?’ We had our lives to live and it seemed too sudden.”
Kelli immediately began receiving chemotherapy and fighting the greatest fight she would ever face, one for her life.
“I definitely experienced things that my friends didn’t. 15-years-old was hard because everyone starts dating and driving but despite that, I feel lucky. I only did chemotherapy for six months, never had any complications and because of it, it gave me my career path.”
During the months of receiving treatment, Kelli was a like a sponge, soaking up the care her nurses were pouring into her. “My whole life I wanted to be a doctor. That’s where I always thought my path would lead me. After being hospitalized and really seeing the care that nurses give, I knew I was made to be a nurse.”
Kelli, 10 years after her diagnosis, is now cancer free and a nurse at the exact same hospital she received treatment at all those years ago. “As much as having cancer sucks, it gave me my career path, without a doubt.”
During the months of battling cancer, Kelli leaned and relied on her support system. “I had a really great support system. My family was phenomenal. Over the summer when my parents were at work, my younger brother would help me a lot.” The support stretched beyond her family. During treatment, Kelli lost her hair. “My friends were great. They would wear baseball hats to school, so the attention wasn’t on me.”
Since Kelli’s mom, dad, and younger brother, Adam were such a blessing during her battle, she knew she wanted to include her family when thinking about her one-true wish. “This was the thing we all fought through together. They all had my back this whole time, so I knew I wanted to enjoy the wish experience together.”
After waiting until Kelli felt enough like herself again, she embarked on her life-changing wish to go to Hawaii, an experience Kelli says would have never been possible without Make-A-Wish. “There’s no way we would have gone, even at this point in my life, if not for Make-A-Wish.”
Kelli reflects on the wish trip all those years ago and the weight of impact it carried during that time of her life.
“It was nice to have something to look forward to. No one else my age was going through what I was going through but there was this light at the end of the tunnel—my wish. It was kind of an award for working your butt off; it really helped me through my struggles."
Kelli recalls her favorite moment of the wish being the view from above. The way the beautiful waterfalls glistened in the Hawaiian sun, and the green pineapple fields that seemed to stretch as far as the eye could see. Kelli still holds tight to that memory as she reminisces about her wish.
Now 25-years-old and a few years into her career as a nurse, Kelli implements the journey she’s fought through into her work life. Those that know her describe her as hardworking and dedicated. “My job is really difficult but it’s so great to be able to share what I’ve been through in my life to those that are going through the same thing. You can really connect on a different level. I think it gives my patients peace of mind and a sense that I understand.”
When Kelli isn’t working, she spends time with her friends and family, and her yellow Labrador puppy, named Garth. “As in Garth Brooks,” Kelli laughs.
Kelli is currently working on earning her master’s degree in Nursing and will graduate in May of 2019. Kelli, now cancer free, will never forget the level of impact her wish had on her, recognizing the importance wishes have on others.
“I think when you’re diagnosed with this life-changing illness, it’s hard to see that light at the end of the tunnel. I remember having a countdown of how many more treatments I had to do, how many more times did I have to get sick after chemo, how many more times. With a wish, there’s a countdown to hope.”
“Everything happens for a reason,” says 25-year-old Kelli. “I really believe that.”