All Baylee ever wanted to do was visit her favorite characters at Walt Disney World. Sleeping Beauty. Winnie-the-Pooh. Tigger. One of her friends in her neighborhood had been several times and would talk about the trip quite frequently. “Why can’t I go?” the 7-year-old Onslow County native would ask her mom.
In June of 2012, Baylee was diagnosed with a brain tumor. An MRI would reveal that a golf ball-sized tumor resided in the center of the brain, slightly above the pituitary gland. It had also spread to her spine. Baylee’s mom, Tracie, could tell something was wrong before diagnosis. Baylee would complain often of headaches, would suffer many infections and never seemed to gain weight for a girl her age.
“When Baylee was diagnosed, I was at a loss to explain. I don’t drink, I don’t smoke, I work out regularly. What was I doing wrong? I felt responsible for Baylee’s condition like it was my fault,” explained Tracie.
Tracie had just battled cancer herself, diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma soon after the birth of Baylee’s younger sister, Emma in 2010. During this time, her husband, John, a member of the United States Marine Corps stationed at MCAS New River, was deployed overseas. Currently, Tracie is “stable” with a lump located behind her heart. She has CAT scans every three months to monitor her condition.
Baylee began chemotherapy immediately. She underwent treatment every Monday until the end of November 2012. It was during this time that her surgeon recommended Make-A-Wish® to the family. The surgeon felt that Baylee needed something to keep her mind occupied, something to look forward to during her rigorous 12-week treatment.
A trip to Walt Disney World was Baylee’s first choice when the family began to meet with the team from Make-A-Wish Eastern North Carolina. She and her family had been through quite an ordeal during the last few years so a trip like this would be the perfect remedy. The trip was scheduled for early January but would need the approval of the medical team before heading to Florida. Baylee had just concluded her first round of chemotherapy. If the tumor had enlarged, surgery to remove the tumor would be needed. Test results revealed that the tumor had remained relatively the same, so she could experience her wish as scheduled and resume another 12-week treatment when returning from her trip.
“It was quite a relief to hear the results,” said Tracie. “It’s hard not to think about what happens next but we were happy that Baylee was well enough to go and enjoy her wish. It was like a dream come true, for her and for me.”
“During the wish, it was an escape from reality for our entire family. We did not have to worry about anything. It was a chance for us to clear our minds and enjoy time together. The folks at Make-A-Wish are angels. I can’t imagine not having this wish to look forward to. The wish made such a big difference in our lives. It provided a source of hope.”
While at Disney, the first person she saw when arriving at the Magic Kingdom was Sleeping Beauty. Meeting all of the characters at Disney as well as Give Kids the World, where the family stayed for a week, is a memory that Baylee won’t soon forget – an experience that she can now share with her neighborhood friends.