Dreams don't always come true, but for a Brookfield Central student in the summer between her sophomore and junior years, a wish is on its way to fulfillment.
When Emily Oberst was diagnosed with Ewing's Sarcoma, a rare type of bone cancer, in November of 2011, she and her family took it as any family would: hard.
"At first, I was in shock; I cried for the first night," Emily said.
The initial reaction, however, was not representative of Oberst's battle with the cancer, as she and her family quickly went from devastated to determined.
"Obviously it began terribly, but it turned into appreciating each day and living it to the fullest," said Melissa Oberst, Emily's mother. "It really allowed us to reprioritize what is important to us as a family."
Celebrate good times
The Obersts were the center of a joyful celebration at Asiana Restaurant in Pewaukee on Monday, June 15, that was attended by Make-A-Wish Foundation volunteers Ellen Seifert and Ellen Stark and United Health Foundation Director of Account Management Marty Flower. The party served as a send-off courtesy as the foundations revealed details in regard to Emily's wish, a dream vacation for her and her family to Moorea, Tahiti.
"I've seen on T.V. and in pictures how beautiful (Tahiti) is, and I've always dreamed of staying in a bungalow," Emiliy said. "But it's extremely expensive, so I knew I would never have a chance."
Despite it being a dream of hers, Emily was hesitant to accept the gift when it was offered.
"I was hesitant; I felt bad because I felt that other people maybe needed the wish more," Emily said. "I'm actually pretty good right now. I can walk. It's not like other people."
Eventually, Emily was convinced to accept the wish after it was explained to her that doing so would not affect the fulfillment of wishes for others in need. In addition to that, she was glad to be able to give back to her family.
"They explained to her that the wish is also a way to give back to your entire family for all the sacrifices," Melissa said.
The sacrifices were indeed plentiful; while Monday night was celebratory, the last few years have been anything but easy for the Obersts.
The difficult journey
Initially, Melissa and Emily believed the pain in her leg was simply shin splints.
"We shrugged it off," Melissa said. "But it persisted and started sleepless nights. She needed ibuprofen just to make it through the day. We went to get an x-ray, and there was the tumor."
The tumor was in about two-thirds of Emily's left tibia. What followed was 10 months of chemotherapy and a radical surgery that saw her left tibia removed and replaced with the fibula of her other leg.
"Whether or not she would be able to walk or run again was a big question," Melissa said. "Amputation was an option we had to consider as well."
After her surgery, Oberst spent 9 months in a wheel chair and went through a year and a half of rehabilitation to re-learn the use of her left leg. She finished her physical therapy two weeks ago.
"In the midst of all that, we were contacted by our social worker through a children's hospital that Emily qualified for a wish," Melissa said. "Make-A-Wish is just an unbelievable organization. We've (donated) for years. We never knew we would be on the other side. They just provide an amazing opportunity for kids and their families to feel alive again."
Emily will depart on June 25 along with Melissa, her father Stephen, and her three brothers Thomas, Evan and John.
She has now been on the mend for 21 months with what doctors call "no evidence of disease." Melissa noted that the cancer does have a somewhat high likelihood to return, but said that with every month that passes, the chances of a return decrease.
"Things are looking great; we are always optimistic," Melissa said.
Both mother and daughter could not stress enough the support they have received throughout their ordeal.
"When we moved to Brookfield (in 1999), we really thought it was only for the great school system," Melissa said. "It has turned out to have so much love and support. Between bringing us meals, watching our boys and just showing support, everyone really stepped up. We've realized how fortunate we were to be in such a great community."
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