Iola teen battling cancer, visits Italy
By Holly Neumann
Life has not been easy for Faith Stubinski, as the Iola 17-year-old has been battling stage 3T lymphoblastic lymphoma for nearly two years.
“It’s been a long road, but I am doing well,” she said. “I feel good and I have not had any issues for a while.”
“Life is finally getting back to normal,” added her mother, Angie.
Faith became excited after Make-A-Wish Wisconsin contacted her.
According to Forrest Doolen, director of marketing and communications for the organization, Make-A-Wish Wisconsin grants the wishes of children between the ages of 2 1/2 and 18 who are living with a life-threatening medical condition to enrich the human experience with hope, strength and joy.
“My oncologist put my name in,” Faith said. “It meant everything to me.”
The paperwork begins once a child is referred, Doolen said.
“The child’s treating physician is sent a form that they fill out and sign which confirms the child’s qualifying medical condition,” he said. “If the child does medically qualify, the treating physician will check the appropriate box. Once a child’s Part A is approved, two volunteer wish granters are assigned.”
The wish granters meet with the child and their family to help determine the child’s one true wish.
“Once the wish is decided on, a second medical approval form (Part B) is submitted to the child’s treating physician for medical approval of the wish,” Doolen said. “Once that is approved, the wish planning begins.”
Faith’s wish was to visit Italy.
“I was positive that I wasn’t going to get this trip,” she said. “I thought I was shooting too big. It was too far away and it would be too expensive.”
To her surprise, her wish was granted and Faith, along with her mom, siblings and two family friends, were off on an eight-day trip of a lifetime.
Make-A-Wish makes all of the arrangements and covers every aspect of the wish. Funding comes from individuals, corporations, foundations and outside and internal fundraisers.
“Make-A-Wish provided the transportation, lodging, flights, meals, excursions and even some souvenir money,” Doolen said.
“They really rolled out the red carpet for Faith,” Angie said. “We boarded first, Faith got to sit in the cockpit and got to meet the pilot. They even gave her the flight map.”
“This was the first time flying for all of us,” Faith added. “I was petrified.”
The family had a full itinerary of things to do. They toured Rome, went to Venice, the Vatican, the Colosseum, the Florence Cathedral, St. Peter’s Basilica and more.
“It was truly amazing,” said Faith’s brother, Tanner. “Definitely a lot bigger and more exciting than I was expecting. You hear about it and see pictures, but I was just blown away.”
“It was really cool,” added Faith’s sister, Bekah. “I kept thinking it was not real, that this was not happening to us, but it really was. This was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
Faith was excited to see just about everything in the area.
“All the history there, the Colosseum, the architecture, I wanted to see it all,” she said. “It has always been a dream of mine, but I thought it was out of reach. I guess dreams really can come true.”
She admitted she almost forgot she was battling cancer.
“When I was walking around at the Colosseum and learning about everything, it made me feel like a normal person,” she said. “It was a freeing moment.”
For Angie, this trip was all about family time.
“We have missed so much family time, birthdays, holidays,” she said. “I wanted my family together. Just spending time together and having fun. This was really the first family vacation that we have ever taken.”
It was also a mixed bag of emotions.
“In a heartbeat, I would have given this trip up if Faith would not have had to go through this,” Angie said. “She has had a really rough road.”
Faith and her family are now home and counting the days until she is done with her treatments.
“I take medication at home nightly and I go for maintenance chemo once a month,” she said. “I should be done with maintenance sometime in July.”
Faith said she will do a leap for joy when that day comes.
“I am going to hug my oncologist, that is for sure,” she said. “She deserves it.”
She has one message to other kids battling cancer.
“It gets better,” she said. “It may be rough right now, but it is worth the fight. Keep fighting.”