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Being a Family Again

Rachel Gilsenan

By Rachel Gilsenan

Being a sibling to a child with cancer is no easy task. My family of five went from being always together to just seeing each other in passing. My brother and I were left to spend nights at cousins’ houses while my parents rotated shifts with our sister Nicole at the hospital. This was hard for 13-yearold me, because I felt like I was excluded and unimportant at a crucial point in my life.

Then Make-A-Wish came. From the moment the wish granters showed up at my house, I could see Nicole’s gears turning about what she could wish for to make the five of us feel like one again. She set her sights on a Disney Cruise.

I remember telling Nicole, “It’s not what we want to do, it’s what you want to do.” The day Make-A-Wish® Metro New York came to talk about her wish, mom asked repeatedly if she was sure this is what she wanted. Nicole, all of 11, was emphatic:

“Everyone likes vacation. This is my wish and I want everyone to enjoy it. This is what we are doing.”

Soon the five of us were flying out to Florida to board The Fantasy. Every horrible thing that we felt or experienced within the last year faded as the shoreline disappeared on the horizon.

Thanks to Make-A-Wish, the five of us were able to be a family again. We spent the week appreciating the time we finally had together. My parents relaxed, a rare sight at the time. My brother and I felt we belonged. And Nicole was just happy that the five of us were in the same place at the same time.

“It was nice to finally all sit down and relax after the whirlwind we were thrown into,” mom said recently. “I’m grateful for Make-A-Wish, because without them this wouldn’t have been possible.”

I have never experienced another vacation like this, nor will I; there was so much meaning behind it. The five of us needed something to bring us back to each other. That was seven years ago. Nicole is now a college sophomore, I’m a senior. And our family remains as close as ever.

Rachel Gilsenan, a senior at the University at Albany from Staten Island, is a marketing and communications intern for Make-A-Wish Northeast New York.

Nov 18, 2019

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