We all hope to rise to the moment in our life when we have the chance to come through and pay it forward. For a Bend family, that dream comes true this weekend.
But it was long nightmare to get here — a child, just staring their journey, diagnosed with cancer.
Seven-year-old Grant Williamson has always had a smile, a sense of humor and a twinkle in his eye.
“Our youngest son, Grant, is a spitfire and full of mischief and life,” said his mom, Sarah.
Grant was born October 11, 2015 — just 11 minutes after his twin brother, Evie, and two years after the Williamsons had their first child — Grant’s big brother A.J.
For two-and-a-half years, Grant was a happy, healthy little boy. But a couple of months before his third birthday, life would change for Grant and the Williamsons.
It was August 23, 2018. Sarah said it started as a normal day.
“I had noticed for a while my youngest son, Grant, had a cough and I thought, ‘OK, I need to probably get him to the doctor,’” Sarah said. “Well, my sitter who came that day hadn’t seen him in a long time, and she has been their nanny since they very small.”
Sarah said her the sitter noticed something right away.
“And she said, ‘Sarah, you’ve got to get him to the doctor right away.” Sarah said. “So they got him right to the doctor and nothing was too off. Nothing was too alarming, almost an afterthought. She said, ‘Let’s just get a chest x-ray.’ And they said, ‘Oh, by the time you get back upstairs, the x-rays will be there.'”
Sarah said they got back to the room and they waited.
“And then I knew something was really wrong.” Sarah said.
The chest x-ray would reveal every parent’s worst nightmare. Grant had a large tumor growing in his chest cavity.
“Our primary care doctor came in and she was in tears and said, ‘I’m so sorry.’ Your son Grant has a tumor in his chest cavity. Over 50% of his chest cavity, and it’s blocking his trachea. This is very urgent because it’s growing very rapidly.” Sarah said.
“It was the worst moment of your life. You literally … it was the worst moment of my life,” Sarah said. “You hear tumor and you think death. You think he’s going to die I asked her multiple times. I laid on the ground and I said, Is he going to die?”
Grant was rushed to St. Charles for more tests and then life flighted to Doernbecher Children’s Hospital in Portland. Extensive testing over the following days revealed the Williamsons’ worst fears. Grant had T-cell lymphoma. Cancer.
“You know, you’re just nauseous. And I just remember sitting there hoping it was anything else but cancer,” Sarah said.
Grant began chemo treatments and life, as the Williamsons had known it, was over.
Grant would have to make weekly trips back and forth to Portland for medical care. He describes the experience with one word.
“Bad,” Grant told us. “Because it was so hard.”
There would be countless emergency room trips in Bend and multiple life flights along the way to Portland. But eventually, the mischievous kid with the fun, cheeky personality began to get better.
After two long years of treatment, Grant was in remission.
And more good news was on the way. The Make-A-Wish Foundation awarded Grant and his family got to spend four magical days at DisneyWorld.
Now, the little kid with the bleak prognosis is in the second grade. He’s healthy, happy and counting down the days till he turns eight next month. His hair is back along with that smile, that sense of humor, that twinkle in the eyes.
Now, the Williamsons want to pay it forward to the organization that meant so much to their family.
“Make-A-Wish reached out to us late last year and said, I know you had such a great trip to DisneyWorld, which would grant want to be an ambassador?” Sarah said.
Grant will be hosting the Wishes and Dishes event this Sunday, hoping to give back to the foundation that gave so much to him.
“Part of the reason I want to do this is because I feel so grateful,” Sarah said. “We have met so many people throughout this experience who did not have this outcome. So we’re very, very lucky.”
The Wishes and Dishes event takes place this Sunday from 5:30 to 8:30 at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Bend. The night will feature 10 local chefs who are serving up their finest foods and beverage pairings. Tickets are $75 and are still available at this link. Every dollar raised supports local kids who are waiting for their wishes to come true.