Note: Laura is our second place winner in The Dish On The Wish Contest. This post combines Laura’s entry with some follow up information she shared with us. We were tremendously inspired by her story, her bravery, and her spirit and are excited to share it with you!
I have always enjoyed As You Wish, but it has evolved into something more over the last couple of years. I think I was 11 the first time I went with a friend for her birthday. I specifically remember what I made: a square vase/candle holder that had raised moons and stars on the four sides. I painted the background a teal blue and the moon and stars were yellow. I am positive it’s packed safely in a box since I moved. Seventeen years later, my pieces look much better, but I will always remember that first piece.
I didn’t go back for years and then my friend Erin and I started going again in high school. We liked to spend entire days there and paint many things. Now that we’ve grown up and have taken turns living elsewhere, we sure look forward to when we are both in Arizona because it’s a must-do on our list.
Over the years I have made gifts for people, exposed others to the joys of As You Wish, and created many memories. In July 2013, on a Thursday, I went to As You Wish with my mom. We were chatting while we painted (making utensil holders for our kitchens among other things) and discussing how I’d felt the last few days. I’d had some shortness of breath and trouble running (one of my favorite things, along with killer whales!). We decided I would make a doctor’s appointment for Monday. I scheduled the appointment sitting at the counter facing the AMC Theaters next to the Mesa studio. As it turned out, I ended up going to the Emergency Room Sunday night. After several tests, a few days, and then a surgery to drain fluid from around my heart and in my lungs, I was told I had lymphoma. (Ed note: Lymphoma is a cancer of a part of the immune system called the lymph system.)
Now, I’m really not fond of pulling “The Cancer Card,” but it really is important to explain what As You Wish has become to me. I started treatment immediately and have been undergoing chemotherapy ever since. I’m in remission since September of 2013, but because of the type of cancer, I had nine months of very intense chemotherapy, a month of radiation, and two years of maintenance chemo, which takes place every four weeks. I will be done with treatment on April 11, 2016! Whoo Hoo! Anyway, the point is, since I started treatment, I haven’t been able to work (I was in my second year as a fifth grade teacher) and have been very limited in what I can do.
I went to As You Wish the first two Christmases I spent with my husband and made us an ornament. I had plans of doing this every year but in 2013, there was no way I could go. My husband secretly went and made one for us so the tradition could continue and it was hands down my favorite gift of the year. I was finally able to go in 2014 and made our ornament. It was a special time and I was so happy! It was an emotional trip though because it had been almost a year and a half since I’d been there. I couldn’t help but think about the fact that the last time I was there it was the last fun thing I did before my life was sort of put on pause with cancer stuff.
Earlier this month I was having a particularly rough day. I needed to not be in my house because I spend WAY too much time there. I needed to not be watching TV. I needed something different. I loaded myself up in my car and drove to As You Wish. I knew it would be a great place to spend the afternoon. I feel comfortable there. I feel like I belong. It is a place where I can’t help but think about cancer and what it’s done to me. However, it’s also a place where I can sit for hours and clear my mind. It’s sort of like therapy without having to talk through stuff because as I paint I can just zone out and focus on that instead of the struggles of life. There really are no words to express what it means to me and it seems silly because in reality, it is a store. But it’s a place I love. I’m afraid I’m not doing it justice with my words, but it’s difficult to express and articulate what a wonderful thing it is. I have thought about and looked forward to going to As You Wish countless times, specifically in the last two years. Even when I can’t make it, thinking about going and having the goal and desire to go is helpful some days. When I do get to go, though, it’s even better.
As You Wish started as something to do for fun with my friends and family, but it really has turned into something much more. I entered the contest because I love As You Wish. I thought it was a good opportunity for people who work there to get to hear how much it means to me. It’s difficult for me to just explain to the staff when I’m there because I’m painting and they’re busy. This was a good way to make sure they know that they are truly appreciated. I don’t know when I’ll be able to come back and paint again because I never know exactly how I’m going to feel. What I do know is that I WILL be back and I Will enjoy it. I love it. It’s really something special.