Sister's passing inspires Jess
Jess Geraghty's younger sister Lizzie passed away from cancer in 2013, but not before their family was able to go an unforgettable wish trip. The experience inspired Jess so much she's now a Make-A-Wish volunteer.
Phone call brings joy
Jess Geraghty has a mental file of moments she goes to whenever she thinks of her late sister Lizzie.
One of the memories which makes her smile the most is the time Make-A-Wish called Lizzie to tell her to pack her bags for her wish trip to Italy.
Jess was in the background when Lizzie, who was battling cancer, picked up the phone.
“Lizzie’s wish was pencilled in for October 2011, then in the middle of the year she relapsed,” Jess recalled.
“So she obviously got sick again but less than two weeks after we found out she had relapsed I remember her getting a call from Make-A-Wish and I was sort of hovering in the background like a nosey big sister and they were like ‘How would you like to go to Italy next week?’.
“She was so excited; she had been really quite depressed that she had relapsed. She was really down and struggling with that. So she was so happy and so excited when she got the call.”
Wish gives reason to smile
Aged 11, Lizzie was diagnosed with the bone cancer Ewing sarcoma in 2010.
She had been experiencing hip pain for about six months, and doctors initially thought it was growing pains.
“They later did a scan and found out it was a tumour causing her pain,” Jess said.
“Even though we knew something wasn’t quite right, the diagnosis was a massive shock.”
Later that same year Lizzie’s social worker told her about Make-A-Wish and soon the wheels were in motion for Lizzie’s wish.
Lizzie wanted to go to Italy, mainly to eat pasta and go on a gondola. But not just any gondola, it had to be one with a gondolier wearing a blue stripey shirt.
“It took us ages in Venice to find a gondolier with a blue shirt, they all had red shirts,” Jess said.
“But we eventually found one; his name was Marco. So she ticked everything off.”
Family tastes Italy
Lizzie, Jess, Jess’s twin brother Tom, and their parents spent nine days in Italy.
The trip was just the tonic for Lizzie, who knew she faced more painful medical treatments on her return home.
“It was incredible,” Jess said.
“It was an opportunity to spend some time together and have some fun and kind of forget about the crap we were coming home to.
“It gave us a lot of strength to come home and start treatment again.”
Upon her return, Lizzie had chemotherapy and radiation, as well as some experimental drugs.
Two years after her wish trip, in August 2013, Lizzie passed away aged 15.
“It was quite devastating,” Jess said.
“Lizzie and I were best friends, we were really close and would spend a lot of time together. “Losing her when I was just 18 was really difficult, and it took a long time for my family and I to get back on our feet again.
“We were lucky to also have family, friends and a supportive community to help get us through.”
Jess gives back to Make-A-Wish
Jess’s experience with Make-A-Wish ignited something inside of her, so she decided to become a volunteer once she was in the right headspace.
“The trip had such a profound impact for us, and I always wanted to give back and get involved when the time was right,” she said.
“It (Lizzie’s death) was pretty raw for a few years, but when I finished uni and started work I had the time.”
Jess joined the Sydney South Make-A-Wish branch about three years ago before moving to the Central Sydney branch. She has been involved in six wishes, including a boy who wished for a flute, a girl named Elysha who went to the Gold Coast and a princess party.
“I just love it so much,” Jess said. “It’s this incredible thing where you have a very tangible impact, and you see that playing out right before your eyes when you’re on a wish or you’re organising an event. It’s super rewarding.”
Jess said having gone through the same journey as wish families, she was able to relate to how they were feeling.
She said while all wish parents were different, many “don’t want to ruminate on the fact their child is unwell”.
“My experience with Lizzie has helped me understand that these kids just want to feel normal and have something exciting to look forward to,” Jess said.
Dealing with wish children and families had also helped Jess’s healing.
“I think being able to give back makes it easier for me to deal with some of the things with Lizzie,” she said.
“It’s nice to be able to use what happened to me, our family and Lizzie, in a positive way.”
Here for the long run
Jess has also put her body on the line for Make-A-Wish, taking part in two triathlons to raise funds.
She raised $7000 and the following year, with some friends, another $13,000 by doing the Noosa triathlons.
“Volunteering has given me this huge sense of purpose and the drive to do things like a triathlon, which I never thought I would do,” Jess said.
“I don’t know there are many other experiences like Make-A-Wish where you have such an incredible impact and are so involved.”
Jess will be heading overseas for work in the near future but plans to pick up where she left off with Make-A-Wish.
“I will be 100pc involved when I come back,” she said.
“One day I’d like to be on the board of Make-A-Wish. It will be hard to get rid of me; I’m here for the long run!”
The trip had such a profound impact for us, and I always wanted to give back and get involved when the time was rightJess sister to wish child Lizzie, Ewing sarcoma
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The Wish Journey
How a wish comes to life
Make-A-Wish volunteers visit each child to capture their greatest wish, getting to the heart of what kids truly want and why. This profound insight is part of what makes Make-A-Wish unique, giving children full creative control and helping to shape their entire Wish Journey.
Back at Make-A-Wish HQ, we partner with families, volunteers and medical teams to design the ultimate wish experience - and start rallying our partners and supporters to help make it happen.
In the lead up to the wish, we take each child on a journey designed to build excitement and provide a welcome distraction from medical treatment. Anticipation can be incredibly powerful, helping to calm, distract and inspire sick kids at a time they need it most.
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