Today’s post is so very special to me. I want to introduce y’all to my friend Ensley Ogden.
Ensley is a very special young lady. She’s a hard-working, smart, and compassionate high school student here in Louisville, and she was diagnosed at age 13 with Langerhans Cell Histiocytosis (LCH), a rare type of cancer, in her brain. I’ve had the good fortune to know Ensley’s family for years and actually was sitting on a charity board with her mother, Lauren, when this diagnosis occurred. I watched the Ogdens fight this terrible diagnosis with a remarkable degree of grace. Ensley was awarded the Dick Vitale Award for Hope from the V Foundation, which carried a special message from Dickie V that even Cats fans (like me) and Cards fans (like Ensley and her parents) can agree upon: Miss Ensley is one tough lady!
I’ll be sharing updates from the Make-a-Wish Foundation gala tonight over on Instagram, and I wanted to share Ensley’s story of all the ways that Make-a-Wish can help an ailing family heal!
Ensley, do you mind telling me a little about your illness and your diagnosis? I know it had to be so scary.
I was diagnosed with LCH when I was 13 years old after having symptoms for about a year, such as uncontrollable thirst, loss of appetite, weight loss, nausea, low-grade fevers, headaches, delayed growth, and low thyroid. I had my craniotomy on March 3rd, 2016 and was diagnosed around that time. Luckily, I was able to keep hold of hope (for the most part) because of the overwhelming support I had from my family, friends, school, nurses, doctors, and even people that I had never met! I could not have done this alone.
Your treatment took close to two years, if I remember correctly, and y’all were traveling a lot. I’m sure that made life so different. Can you tell me a little bit about how traveling for treatment affected school and life for you?
When I was first getting my surgery and being diagnosed, I was in Houston, Texas for a long time. It was really hard not being able to see my friends and family back home and not being able to participate in school. But, even though I didn't have everyone supporting me in person, I received so many messages, letters, and packages from friends back home and even teachers at my school! Each and every one that I received really brightened some of the hardest days. After I was diagnosed, I was able to do treatment in Louisville, which was so amazing because I had my support system right there with me along the way. Even though I had to go to Houston regularly, it was comforting to be able to treat at home.
You are so blessed to have such an amazing support system. I remember talking to your mom several times during your illness and she always stressed the value of keeping your life (and hers) as normal and positive as possible. I know that having this kind of support had to make a scary situation a little better, right?
Yes! As I said previously, I couldn't have done it without my support system. Everyone from my friends and family to my school to my nurses and doctors to complete strangers served this role. I would always make sure to have plenty of visitors while I stayed in the hospital. It made me feel like everything was normal when I was around people.
Can you tell me about your experiences with Make-a-Wish and your Wish Trip? It had to be such a great way to change your outlook and celebrate your prognosis!
My experience with Make-A-Wish was absolutely incredible! My Wish Trip was a cruise throughout the Hawaiian Islands. I got to bring my mom and dad and because I don't have a sibling, I got to bring another person. I chose my Aunt Mary. I had the best trip I could have ever imagined. Since I had to wait until I was finished with treatment because I couldn't be that far away from a hospital and I couldn't swim in the ocean with my port, I had something to always look forward to. My mom even bought be a book about Hawaii to look through during my hospital stays. It felt like such a huge accomplishment when I finished treatment and this trip was my reward. Also, it was the first time I got to swim in the ocean since I received my port two years beforehand! I will always remember this trip and all that Make-A-Wish has done for me and my family.
Is there anything you’d want a kid facing a diagnosis like yours to know?
Just to stay strong and keep people around you. You are stronger than you know. (Click to tweet these remarkable words of wisdom!)