Lindsey Willis is going fishing in Alaska, thanks to the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Oregon.
The 17-year-old senior-to-be at Roseburg High is beginning a new chapter in her life after a grueling battle with leukemia.
She was diagnosed with Burkitt’s leukemia on April 15, 2017, and she began intense treatments just a few hours later. It was a tough journey.
“Right after they found it, they started treatment, like four hours later,” she said. “I had chemotherapy a week long with hard, long doses and then a weekend off and the next week, I’d be in the hospital recovering for a week, and then go home for a week. Then I would start over every month.”
She was done with the treatments in August, and it appears they are working. She still has to go to Doernbecher Hospital every six to eight weeks for a checkup, but everything looks good so far.
“Last time they took bone marrow out was Sept. 11 of last year, and there was no cancer,” said her mother, Penny Willis. “When we went up to Doernbecher a couple of weeks ago her blood work was still doing great.”
Last year, her name was submitted to the Make-A-Wish Foundation; her wish was to go to on a fishing trip to Alaska and experience the wilderness.
Last Saturday, June 2, at a gathering at the Douglas County Fairgrounds, Make-A-Wish officials held a party for Lindsey Willis and her family and announced that they had granted her wish for the trip to Alaska.
“Fishing is just something that I’ve always enjoyed doing and grew up doing, so going to Alaska and getting the big fish would be kind of cool,” she said.
The treatments for the leukemia have not slowed her ability to participate in all of the activities in which she had been involved.
Lindsey Willis has been able to remain as a cheerleader at Roseburg High School, and she’s been able to keep her grades up despite missing school time. She was out for two months while she was in the hospital in Portland but continued to communicate with the school, and last semester had a 4.0 GPA.
“I was on the cheer team the whole, time, but I couldn’t do as much, but I still showed up to support the team,” she said. “Now I’m slowly getting back into it.”
Lindsey Willis continued to hike, fish, go four-wheeling, and even kept participating in the Douglas County Search and Rescue program while going through treatments.
“She’s a great kid,” said Wayne Stinson, Emergency Manager for the Douglas County Sheriff’s office. “Even when she was going through treatments she went on as many, if not more, missions than the average SAR volunteer.”
“She’s an outdoors girl, and with Alaska being more wilderness she thought that would be right up her alley,” said Penny Willis. “She’s pretty excited; she’s been counting down the days.”
The support Lindsey has gotten from the community has been overwhelming.
“I’d just like to say thank you to them, because there are tons of people and businesses that have helped me,” she said. “They held fundraisers while I was in Portland.
“I think it’s wonderful,” said Dennis Willis, Lindsey’s father. “The whole community has been wonderful during this tragedy, it’s just something that you don’t expect.”
Lindsey will leave on the week-long trip on June 20 and her whole family gets to go with her, including brother Chris, 18, and sisters Anna, 13, and Kathryn, 12.
“There’s going to be a lot of fishing and hiking, and I’m hoping for an airplane or helicopter ride so I can get an aerial view,” Lindsey said.
The disease was caught early and doctors were able to give prompt and intensive chemotherapy, which means a much better chance of survival.
Lindsey wants to go into the medical field after high school and possibly be a paramedic.
Make-A-Wish Oregon grants life-changing wishes for children with critical illnesses. The Oregon chapter is one of 62 chapters in the U.S.
For information on the Make-A-Wish Foundation Oregon, go to oregon.wish.org.