“They say a person needs just three things to be truly happy in this world: someone to love, something to do, and something to hope for.” -Tom Bodett
In this case, former wish kid Marianne ‘Joy’ Mayuga-Schlossberg is one happy woman.
Not all sick kids are aware of the medical condition they are going through. But at 11 years old, Joy knew – even before diagnosis – that she had leukemia. In her own words, she was “obsessed learning about the symptomatic bruises” of the blood cancer since learning that her yaya‘s sister had the condition.
After experiencing nonstop bleeding from a regular dental procedure, Joy chanced upon the 700 Club Channel on TV and caught the episode where the show’s message was, “If your child has bruises, take [him] to the doctor.” She then nagged her mom to bring her to the physician – “It was like God spoke to me. I was fully prepared for it.”
Since that initial consultation, the days went by in a blur as Joy and her mom sought treatment options in California, where many of their relatives reside. Still, no one discussed what her illness was. Not until the brave girl confronted her specialist in Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, “I have leukemia, right?”
Declared in remission after chemotherapy by mid-December but suffering a relapse in March, her doctors expressed that she was in a worse condition. Joy was diagnosed with Acute Promyelocytic Leukemia (APL), a more aggressive type of leukemia that conventionally hits middle-aged adults. The next order was for a bone marrow transplant.
While in the hospital, she turned to Cathie, her Childlife Specialist, for companionship and comfort. After Cathie introduced her to Make-A-Wish, Joy knew what her heart truly wished for. It was to be with her siblings before the major surgery, which was to be done in Israel.
Back in Manila, Joy’s sister Jen Mayuga-Cruz was shocked one morning when she learned that she and their brother Jigs had to pack their luggage and fly that same night to see Joy. “Our dad has six siblings there and we were the only family left in the Philippines. It was a real reunion for us,” Jen said.
In another leg of her healing journey of recovering post-transplant for ten months in Israel, Joy met a Filipina lady – who, in an extraordinary twist of fate – became her mother-in-law several years down the lane.
Joy, then 13, was finally able to go back to Manila in May 1995. Fully recovering from the procedure, she went back to high school and pursued medicine at the University of the East thereafter. “My battle with leukemia solidified my dream to be in the medical field. I have experienced being a patient, which gave me more empathy. It has always been about service for me,” Joy shared.
After graduating from medical school, Joy married her childhood sweetheart and migrated to build their family. She was once told that she would not be able to conceive after what she went through. Today, Joy and her husband Daniel enjoy family life with their two kids. She is currently a school physician in Georgia.
“Cancer was the worst thing that happened to me but it was also the best thing. If not for being sick, I wouldn’t even have met my husband and have my two kids now. It was all part of my journey.”
She is grateful to know that a Make-A-Wish affiliate has been established in the Philippines. Looking back at her wish experience, Joy attested that it was a crucial turning point that gave hope in her life. After learning about her relapse, the idea of death came too close for a little girl who had always tried to be courageous and optimistic as her parents taught her to be.
As a former wish kid cancer survivor and now doctor and mother, Joy continues to share hope, believing that, “There’s no room for self-pity, it will eat you up. Your mindset is what will get you through. You have to look at the long-term. You have to look forward to something when you get better. You just have to keep on fighting. From the get-go, tell yourself – I’m gonna be brave, I’m gonna do it.”
For over 40 years, Make-A-Wish has granted more than 500,000 life-changing wishes for children and families worldwide and continues to do so. Make-A-Wish America grants the wishes of medically eligible children in the United States and all of its territories and possessions, while Make-A-Wish International serves children outside the United States and its territories and possessions. Make-A-Wish International has 39 affiliates, serving children in nearly 50 countries on five continents.
Make-A-Wish Philippines, an affiliate founded over 20 years ago, creates life-changing wishes for Filipino children with critical illnesses. Donate, volunteer, and create hope for a child in need today.