Sharing David’s Sunshine
27-year-old Anjelica is the sibling of a wish child, David, who passed away two years ago.
She now wants to use David’s story to inspire others and share the impact of a wish on an entire family.
"I’ll be his voice"
27-year-old Anjelica is a lawyer, a newly onboarded Make-A-Wish volunteer. But most importantly, she’s both a daughter and sister. Forever.
Anjelica’s brother David was a wish child, and the light of his family's life. Sadly, after his 21st birthday – David passed away from the long-term effects of his brain tumour.
Being now forever 21, Anjelica has made it her mission to inspire the world with David’s story – and come back to Make-A-Wish to share the impact David’s wish had on his life, and their family.
“I know David and I really wanted to come back once we were a bit older to share how Make-A-Wish does affect you even as an adult. I was feeling down the last few weeks, thinking ‘how can I honour David and do something we always wanted to do together’. And even though he is no longer with us, I am still doing it with him, I’ll be his voice and share his story.”
The Gentle Giant
David may have been 6ft 1, but he had a kind and humble personality. He also had a vibrant energy that made any passerby light up.
“His presence spoke volumes. The minute you said his name he just had the most beautiful smile. If you were ever having a bad day, David would always try to make you smile. Even if he also had a bad day, he would never let that show.”
David and the family first found out about Make-A-Wish soon after his diagnosis when he was 13, at the Westmead Children's Hospital in Sydney. It didn’t take David long at all to decide on his wish – in his true selfless nature, he wished to take his mum and sister on a family holiday.
“Throughout his cancer journey, David was diagnosed with a brain tumour, there was a lot of treatment with his brain surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy and lumbar puncture needles. So, having Make-A-Wish Australia grant a wish for David gave him hope to get through it all."
“It was the most wonderful holiday. It was my favourite holiday ever! We hadn’t gone on a holiday for a very long time. Mum is a very strong, resilient woman and she raised David and I on her own, so it was such a special time for all of us to just have fun and enjoy being together.”
Favourite Holiday Ever
Growing up watching Steve Irwin and Bindi Irwin made it extra special when David and Anjelica flew to Queensland and bee-lined straight for Australia Zoo where they held crocodiles. Despite being the older sister, Anjelica said David was the brave one when handling the rugged reptiles.
“We got to swim with dolphins and stayed at a beautiful hotel. It was all so special because it’s something we could never do. My mum was working 7 days a week before David was diagnosed. Most of our family is in the Philippines, but my aunty (mum’s older sister) managed to get a carer’s visa to come over and look after me. She also came on the holiday, which was amazing for all of us.”
“The wish changed our lives because it gave David hope. He was counting down the days until we were getting on that flight and getting over to Queensland. I did a Make-A-Wish Youth Ambassadorship with David, and it made us so happy that we were able to spread the power of his wish because it impacted us in such a positive way. We’re also really close with our aunty now and I’m grateful to have that family connection. When David passed it felt like we had lost a part of us. We were a dynamic trio, but Make-A-Wish has given us that happy memory to look back on.”
Anjelica’s own journey
Being the sibling of a cancer patient has its very own set of challenges, and for Anjelica it was no different. With her mum living at the hospital with David, it was also a very lonely time for Anjelica at home.
“That was probably the hardest part for me, having mum living with David at the hospital, so it was amazing that our aunty could live with us at least. Being able to leave Sydney and go on the family holiday helped me to realise the importance of family and how loved we all were."
“Even though there were logistical and financial challenges, mum always made sure that we felt loved and that we had everything we needed. We always felt very close and loved."
“What makes David even more amazing is that he used to say, ‘Mum you should go home and stay with Ate tonight (sister in Filipino), I know she will be missing you’. Obviously, mum never left his side, but just the fact that he was thinking of me is so beautiful. He was just so incredibly kind.”
Both a brother and best friend
From a young child to a gentle giant, David was always the same – kind, thoughtful, and a big ball of infectious energy.
“He was always such a cheeky little monkey who wanted to make everyone laugh.”
When it came to Anjelica, they were like two peas in a pod – being three years apart, David took it upon himself to look after his older sister in every possible way.
“He always knew what my favourite cake was and if Mum ever came home with my favourite food he would go and hide it in the back of the fridge to make sure there would be a piece left for me when I got home.”
Another glowing trait of a younger brother is the ability to never dob on you!
“When I was 9 and David was 6, we were playing tag in the living room and I was carrying him on my back while mum was getting ready to go to dinner, which she never did – it was a big outing for her. I tripped and David went flying and hit his eyebrow and it was gushing blood. I was terrified, because David had a bleeding eyebrow and I had to tell mum. Before I could even say sorry, David runs to Mum and says ‘it wasn’t Ate’s fault! I’m the one who tripped and hit my eye!”
“He just never wanted me in trouble. He would always try to cop the blame, but Mum always knew it was me. I think that’s why it hurts so much; I didn’t just lose my little brother; I lost my best friend.”
The long-term effects of David’s brain tumour were ultimately the reason for his passing at 21-years-old. Being on 20 medications throughout his teens, Anjelica says in her heart she knew David was suffering – yet he was never one to show it.
“Despite all his pain, he never let me, and Mum see it. He would nod and smile and say he was okay. He was a light until the very end, and he will always be the sunshine in our lives. Even after his diagnosis and even through all his treatments and right up until he passed away, he was still smiling.”
With a love for fitness, David started a Certificate of Fitness at TAFE. As a testament to how much he touched the lives around him, his classmates held a fundraiser to raise money to help Anjelica and her mum with his funeral costs.
“He just radiated and was the light of his entire course, He was someone who would make your day in such a simple way. It was just his energy, and it was so nice to know that it was felt by people that Mum and I didn’t even know. We were so touched.”
A world touched by David
Anjelica hopes to continue to inspire others with David’s story, having learned so much from him herself.
“With David, despite what he went through – he always went on with a smile. He never had hatred in his heart. Now, whenever I feel hard done by, I remember David would have brushed it off. Life is too short to hold grudges.”
“David’s kindness is also something that I will strive to share with everyone. Something so small like asking someone if they’re having a good day can make such a difference. I just hope I’m able to be as kind as David is.”
Coming full circle
Anjelica and David always loved Make-A-Wish. It was their family's favourite charity, with a strong belief in the impact a wish can have.
“I genuinely believe that whether your wish is something small or big, it really does help someone going through treatment. Even post treatment you have something to look forward to, something to keep you going. It is memories that last a lifetime and well beyond after the wish has been granted.”
Before he passed, David spoke about wanting to come back to Make-A-Wish, and he wanted to do that together with Anjelica.
“It breaks my heart that he wasn’t able to come back and do this with me. I felt like for my mum I’ve always had to be strong – but it’s been two years and I know it’s not healthy to keep it in and I think joining Make-A-Wish will help the healing process too. I know Make-A-Wish will honour him and help me to continue his legacy. There is no other organisation that helps the same way. I know that there are many siblings of cancer survivors and other illnesses and I just want them to know that they are seen and important too, just like my brother made me feel seen.
“I have always spoken so highly of Make-A-Wish, so has my Mum. When I told her that I had reached out, I saw the light in her eyes that I used to see in David because she knows how amazing Make-A-Wish is and how important it is in the community. It really is powerful. It made her smile, and it’s inspired me to give back in any way that I can.”
“Make-A-Wish doesn’t just impact the wish children; you impact the entire family. It’s very evident that even after all these years later!”
Anjelica’s biggest cheerleader
Now a lawyer at an insurance firm, Anjelica has been kicking goals despite once believing she wasn’t smart enough to pursue law.
For Anjelica, high school was a particularly tough time with David being sick. Once David was in remission, Anjelica says she could then focus on her studies because everything felt hopeful.
“David was my biggest cheerleader, there was no one I wanted to see me finish law than David but sadly he tragically passed away before my graduation. I wish he was here to see these achievements of mine, but I know he is watching. Anytime I walk into the Courtroom I know he’s helping and guiding me.”
“The power of a wish is so important to give seriously ill children that hope at the end of a dark tunnel. The wishes don’t just impact the sick child but also all members of the family and that’s something that is life changing. Even when our loved one may leave us, the memories live on forever."Anjelica Make-A-Wish Volunteer