Eli Pickel was just 6-years-old when his parent's started to notice some swelling around his left eye. They thought it may be allergies or a clogged tear duct. But when doctors discovered that Eli had a cancerous tumor around his eye, his dad Ron was devastated, "I cried all the way home from the hospital after we met with the doctor before the biopsy, it was terrifying. I just kept asking myself over and over 'what did he do to deserve something like this?' It just didn't seem fair."
Eli's mom Katy says the tumor was growing quickly, "It was to the point where it was displacing his eye and pushing it out and we were scared he was going to lose his eye, it was quick you knew something was going on."
That's when the Pickels turned to Children's Hospital in Omaha. Katy says, "They were fantastic. They were able to get him in very quickly. They were able to get about 6 months of chemo and radiation and since the end of August this year they believe he's clear, they believe they've gotten all the cancer and hopefully it won't come back."
Eli was brave through many months of chemo and 25 radiation sessions. Katy says "People just commented again and again on how at their age they couldn't imagine going through this let alone being 6 and 7 and being as brave as he was."
Eli stayed strong the entire time, "I had my heart set on getting through it, but not being brave...but I still was."
Make-A-Wish sent Eli on a Disney cruise. Joined by his big sister Cicily and his identical twin Zane, Eli's family was in paradise for 4 days and 4 nights.
Eli's Dad Ron says, "It was so much more than we could have asked for. We swam a lot on the ship, they had 2 or 3 swimming pools, we saw a movie on the ship, we saw a musical, they had a Broadway style theater it was never a dull moment for sure." Katy adds, "It was beautiful. We were out and all you could see was ocean, just breath-taking scenery they got to play on this beach that was only for people on the cruise. We went to the Bahamas and got to go on a glass-bottom boat tour."
Bottom line, Eli loved his Disney cruise that was courtesy of Make-A-Wish, "Thank you very much." Katy says, "There's no way to thank them enough. It's just an amazing organization and the opportunities they create for families. It was just such a bright spot in all we went through, I just can't thank them enough."
Make-A-Wish Nebraska grants about 100 wishes a year and each of them cost an average of $7,500.
If you would like to donate to the Make-A-Wish Foundation call 1-800-760-WISH or log onto nebraska.wish.org