Saturday Night Live funny gal Vanessa Bayer opened up to People this week about a more serious topic: her own battle with leukemia at age 15, and her support for the Make-A-Wish Foundation, which actually fulfilled her own wish to take a family trip to Hawaii nearly 18 years ago.
“Being a sick child is obviously extremely difficult,” Bayer explained. “You’re in hospitals all the time undergoing treatments, and you’re not getting to do all of the things that other kids your age are doing.”
Bayer went through 10 days of radiation and 11 months of intense chemotherapy, followed by an additional two years of follow-up chemo to rid her body of the cancer.
“As a child or young adult going through an illness, it can be stressful at times and boring and extremely alienating,” she said. “[The] Make-A-Wish trip was such a special time for me to be away from hospitals and from all of the stressful, bad things we were dealing with. It was truly a wonderful, uplifting experience.”
Which is why Bayer elected to give back to the program, which fulfills dream requests from children diagnosed with life-threatening medical conditions, as the host of their recent 2015 Evening of Wishes fundraising gala.
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“It was an overwhelming feeling be able to give back to an organization that helped me through such a difficult time,” she said. “Plus, having my family and my wish granter at the gala made the whole evening feel very full-circle.”
The number of people successfully recovering from childhood cancers has skyrocketed in recent years. An April 2015 study found that almost 389,000 survivors of childhood cancers are currently living in the United States, an increase of 59,849 people since the last measurement in 2005. The researchers largely attribute this improvement to better treatments.