It’s a big year for Make-A-Wish Colorado. The local chapter is celebrating 30 years and granting its 4,000th wish next month. But it’s an even bigger year for 16-year-old Jenna Spille, the milestone-wish recipient. On August 7, 2012, after doctors found a tumor in her brain, Spille was diagnosed with brain cancer. She underwent six rounds of chemotherapy and six weeks of radiation and number of surgeries. By April 11, she was, in her own words, “cancer-free.”
Spille’s wish to write and publish a book about her experience with cancer will come to fruition on June 4 during a private book release party at the Lone Tree Arts Center. The book, God’s Got This: Adventures in Hope, was inspired by Spille’s journals—writing helped her deal with memory loss as a result of her treatment—and “adventures” she took with her mom. Each of the seven adventures is accompanied by space for the reader to write about his or her own journeys. I chatted with Spille to find out more about her wish.
5280: Many wish kids choose to spend the day with the Stanley Cup or take their families on vacation. Why did you decide to write and publish a book?
Jenna Spille: I was thinking at first of going to Disney World or something like that because I’d never been. But then my mom pointed out that there’s a little girl who was already raising money for our whole family to go and stay there for a week. We have some friends who are going to fly us out to Disneyland. I don’t need another trip. Then my mom said, “What if you were to do something that would help you later on with your career or something? What if you wrote a book? You could write about the adventures we’ve been having.” We’d been taking adventures to take my mind off cancer because I was so sad, and it’s not good to be sad when you’re sick like that. [I could] help other kids take adventures. The book is just to help children and teenagers and even adults who are stuck in the hospital or stuck being sick for a little bit to live life.
5280: Tell me about these adventures.
JS: One of the first ones that we did, one of the coolest ones, was we went to this mountain area and you have to hike a little bit and it’s got a really pretty river, and we walked up to the bridge that’s over the river. My mom was talking to me and she said, “Do you ever feel like you need to let go of something?” Just recently I’d lost my hair. I said, “Yeah sometimes.” “Well I think you have one of those times right now.” And she pulled out my hair. I’d kept it in a bag in a drawer because I didn’t want to let go. She said, “I think it’s time to let go of your hair.” I grabbed a couple strands and we threw them in the river and that was kind of symbolic of me letting go of my hair.
[Another time] we went to Pikes Peak and drove the very top. We were having a hard time driving up this one part; it was just so steep. I said, “Mom, this is like cancer. It’s really hard right now, but when we get to the top it’s going to be worth it.” These adventures are so symbolic of things.
5280: What was the process of writing and publishing like?
JS: Most of them were journal entries. I only had to write a couple of the things. We typed it all out on my computer and then we sent it in to the people who were creating my book. They put it together. We gave them an idea of what we wanted it to look like. They did it perfectly. It’s exactly how I imagined it.
5280: What’s your message to other kids experiencing cancer?
JS: That even if you’re sick or you’re not able to do what seems like all the other normal kids get to do, you can still do those things, just maybe in your own different way. And that there is hope.
Get Involved: Currently, the 250 printed copies of the book are primarily for Spille to hand out to family and friends. Make-A-Wish will give away books to guests at their Wine & Wishes event on August 16. Spille hopes they can print more copies to send to hospitals and doctor’s offices to reach more kids and their families.
—Images courtesy of Make-A-Wish Colorado