HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) – 288 children in Alabama are waiting for their wishes to be granted by Make-A-Wish. Luke Mumfrey is one of 89 in North Alabama. Luke’s wish is for a game room to use with his family and the new friends he’s soon to make when he starts a new school in the Fall.
The Mumfrey family moved to Alabama in February to be closer to a St. Jude Affiliate that specializes in treating children with Acute Myeloid Leukemia. Luke was diagnosed with the cancer last summer.
“That was the day our life totally was upside down,” Luke’s mom Julie Mumfrey said.
Julie and Doug Mumfrey knew something was wrong with their son when his normally vivacious demeanor waned.
“We thought he had COVID. We went and it was negative. He still looked tired but he didn’t want to do anything, he wanted to take a four-hour nap.” Julie said.
“He doesn’t nap. He’d be outside playing, he’d want to play ball. He’d want to go swimming. He would want to be outside,” Doug added.
After testing, doctors said they needed to start treatment immediately.
“When we got to the hospital they were like, ‘Nope, you’re starting chemotherapy tonight. He is very sick. He’s going to have a lot of transfusions, he’s going to have chemotherapy that could land him in the ICU. He’s going to have a special line put in tomorrow because we have to be able to run blood and special chemotherapy and other medications in case he is in the ICU,'” Julie recalled.
“He took everything they threw at him and not once did he complain,” Doug said.
For six months, Luke was in and out of the hospital for chemotherapy. Initial tests, did not give as positive of a prognosis as they had hoped.
“His doctor was really frank with us, and told us that it made him have a 50% survival as opposed to 70% or 80% at five years,” Julie said. “It was at that point that Doug and I were like, ‘OK, we have to do something to make sure we keep this boy around.’ So that’s when we decided to move away from Austin and move to Huntsville.”
The move was a tough one for Luke since he had not gotten to spend much time outside of the hospital since his diagnosis.
“I had to move away from my friends in Texas. I went bald so they all looked at me kind of funny when I walked by them when I got to go home for a week. So my last interaction with them, a lot of them were really nice but some of them were awkward and that was sad. Then I had to leave them,” Luke said.
Doug said the kids, along with their adult friends, did find ways to show up for the Mumfreys.
“He had a lot of friends. All of his buddies came [to the hospital fence] and they couldn’t come in the hospital, but Julie organized a Christmas caroling session. All these people came but they had to be outside the fence but about 60 people came and sang Christmas carols with us. It was really sweet. We felt the love, but it was hard not being with everybody and I know it was hard on him,” Doug said.
Amid all of the changes Luke and his family endured, one constant remained: games. Playing them is Luke’s favorite thing to do with his family. From ‘Sorry’ to ‘Monopoly,’ he wants to win.
“Luke loves games and any opportunity he has to play a game he will take advantage of. He’s also very good at games, and so he usually will beat you at any game he plays,” Doug said.
His family played as often as they could, including every New Year’s Eve. However, strict COVID visitation policies prevented his brother Miles from visiting during that time and Luke had lost their last Monopoly match-up.
Waiting for a rematch was a daunting task and by the time he made contact with Make-A-Wish, he knew what he wanted.
Luke’s wish is to transform the family’s basement in their new Huntsville home into a game room complete with a popcorn machine, cool chairs and a ping pong table. This, in addition to a surface large enough to play any board game Luke can find.
“That was one of the things that kept him happy was actually planning for the wish. And thinking about what he wanted. When our awesome wish granter called us, Luke already had an idea of what he wanted because he’d been dreaming about it the whole time,” Julie said.
The family also had another reason to celebrate, aside from the confirmation Luke’s Wish request was approved.
“I guess it was two months ago or so, maybe a month, St. Jude actually does a post-treatment bone marrow biopsy. When we got the results of that, was probably the happiest day ever. After all his chemo, he was negative,” Doug said.
At the end of August, it will be one year since Luke’s diagnosis.
“They consider “cure” if you’re five years without relapse. Most kids will relapse in the first year,” Doug said.
“We are definitely fueled by hope and fueled by faith, but we do know this next year is so important because he might relapse. We don’t know but we can’t live like that. If we get to have this Make-A-Wish, and we get to have our family room and we get to have our game room and we get to have fun together and build memories in this house together, then I am overjoyed,” Julie said. “That is the gift, being together.”
Wishes like Luke’s are granted through donations from those living in Alabama. News 19 is hosting a Telethon with Make-A-Wish on June 23. If you’d like to donate before then, text “WISHES” to 243-725.