Like many kids, 6-year-old Alexis has big dreams. But while some kids dream about defying gravity as an astronaut, or being the star ballerina in the Nutcracker, Alexis dreams of helping other kids like her and raising awareness of pediatric cancer by sharing her story. And for Alexis, there is no better way to reach other kids than with a cartoon that illustrates her journey.
Thanks to Make-A-Wish Alaska and Washington, this past weekend her dream came true. Alexis received the red carpet treatment at the world premiere of her very own cartoon at Cinerama in downtown Seattle. She was the star of the night as her friends, family and many others gathered to watch Princess Alexis slay the mighty dragon, a ferocious symbol that represented her fight with leukemia.
“It was incredible to see her wish come true and we’re just so grateful,” said Alexis’ mom, Angela. “Alexis was all smiles the entire night and felt like a real star who was making a difference. We’ve always known her to be a very brave little girl and now others who don’t know her can see it too.”
The “dragon” emerges and a wish is born
Alexis was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) in 2012 at age 3. One day, Alexis was sent home from preschool with what her parents thought was a simple fever. A few days later she was urgently admitted to Seattle Children’s to begin cancer treatment.
“It was such a shock and we just couldn’t believe it,” Angela said.
Angela said that luckily Alexis responded well to the treatment and finished her last chemotherapy treatment in August.
“We finally feel like our lives are becoming normal again,” she said.
Angela remembers that throughout treatment, and the long hospital stays, Alexis often asked, “What is cancer and why do I have it?” To better help her understand cancer and the experience she was going through, one of her nurses recommended she watch a Charlie Brown episode called “Why Charlie Brown, Why?” about a little girl, Janice, and her journey with cancer.
“She felt really connected to Janice and watched that cartoon over and over again,” recalls Angela. “As a very mature little girl, it wasn’t long until Alexis decided that she too wanted to help other kids like this cartoon had helped her. She wanted to tell her side of the story through an animated film that other kids could watch to better understand what having cancer is like.”
And thus, her wish was born.
Once Make-A-Wish Alaska and Washington got the wheels in motion by finding a sponsor and local creative agency World Famous to create the cartoon, it was time for Alexis to make it her own.
“Alexis was very involved in the creative process,” Angela said. “She got to pick out important details like the dress her character would wear and the magic wand she would carry. She even did her own voice-over for the film.”
But the end goal is what makes the cartoon so special to Alexis and her family.
“We’ve learned that treating and surviving cancer is a long battle – it’s never over,” Angela said. “We just hope that through her story we can bring some awareness and joy for others that are fighting the same fight.”