Disney star shows Fort Collins cancer patient wishes do come true

A Fort Collins girl got the opportunity last week to see that dreams really can come true.

Shalyn Nelson, 9, was diagnosed with acute myelogenous leukemia, an aggressive form of cancer typically found in adults.

For two years, she has endured “lots of pokes,” chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant, but last week the needles were no more as she met singer and Disney Channel actress Selena Gomez in Clearwater, Fla.

Shalyn Nelson and her family met the actress and singer backstage of her concert, where they talked, took pictures and Shalyn Nelson gave the Disney Channel star a gift basket, which included a tiger bobblehead, bracelets, a picture of Shalyn and some Bath & Body Works lotions.

“We felt pretty lucky that she got to go and meet her and get a picture taken,” said Shalyn’s mom, Sandra Nelson. “It was pretty special. She was beside herself.”

Shalyn Nelson got the opportunity to meet Gomez after the wife of her father’s boss referred her case to the Kids Wish Network, an organization that grants wishes to children ages 3 to 18 living with life-threatening conditions.

Jill Atchison, manager of the Wish Department at Kids Wish Network, said she sent the application for a wish to Nelson and began working as her wish coordinator to bring light to a dark situation. After meeting Shalyn Nelson in Florida last week, Atchison said she was privileged to participate in fulfilling her dream.

“It’s always amazing to meet the children,” Atchison said. “Her whole family got to participate in the wish, which was great. They all needed a break.”

Shalyn Nelson talked candidly about her experience with cancer, a disease she said she knew little about before she faced it.

The year before she was diagnosed, Shayln Nelson was a first-grader at Olander Elementary School and participated in the school’s Pennies for Patients program. She said she did not understand what leukemia was and why they needed to help.

“In first grade, we were like ‘What’s leukemia?'” Shalyn Nelson said. “Now, I know.”

Shalyn Nelson said her diagnosis came with multiple hardships, including not being able to see her sister, Lauren, 12, for all but one of the 120 days she was hospitalized.

“It was really scary,” Lauren Nelson said. “I wasn’t really sure what to do.”

The girls’ mother, Sandra, said the sisters are incredibly close and will be forever bonded by one thing: the bone marrow transplant Lauren gave Shalyn almost two years ago.

“She gets to hold it over her head for the rest of her life,” Sandra Nelson said.

“I can’t thank her enough for what she did,” Shalyn Nelson added quietly.

While Shalyn has now been in remission for almost two years, with Dec. 17 marking the two-year anniversary of her transplant, she said she has learned one thing from her experience.

“Have hope.”

The Coloradoan
Ft. Collins, Colorado

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Kids Wish Network is a charitable organization dedicated to infusing hope, creating happy memories, and improving the quality of life for children having experienced life-altering situations. Kids Wish Network assists children and their families through several key programs.