Miles Wright: “My cancer helped me appreciate the small things.”
Miles Wright was 15 years old when he started to feel a little off. After headaches and nosebleeds turned into a 20-pound weight loss over two weeks, Miles went to see his doctor.
The high school freshman was told it was just “growing pains.” Unconvinced, Miles finally had a blood test. In the summer of 2012, he was diagnosed with leukemia.
Born and raised in Pensacola, Miles received treatments from Studer Family Children’s Hospital at Sacred Heart – a blessing to his tight-knit family, who took turns staying by his side as he navigated those difficult days.
His story inspired a “Be the Match” campaign that brought thousands of people out to check their donor status. But Miles ultimately received his cord blood transplant from a match in Australia. (He says he worked on his accent for a while, for laughs.)
“I try to be as laid back as possible because of my experiences with leukemia,” he shares. “It is definitely a good thing to enjoy the smaller things and not take those things for granted, because you never know when you won’t have them.”
Being close to home meant Miles’ friends and classmates could visit him after school. In fact, many would walk from nearby Booker T. Washington High School to spend time playing video games, like nothing had changed.
“It’s one thing when people say they’re going to come and see you, but when they actually come and spend the better part of their day with you, that speaks volumes,” he says. “Some of them would skip their track meets just to come hang out with me on weekends. That meant the world to me.”
While in the hospital for up to a month at a time, Miles also made friends on the floor. His doctors and nurses checked up on him regularly, while giving him space to be a normal kid.
Miles says it was incredible to have the hospital in his hometown, because his family could be right there with him.
“My mom stayed there every night. I would wake up and my grandparents would be there before she even left. My aunt and uncle came on the weekends to give my mom some reprieve,” he explains. “It felt like nothing changed. Nothing felt new or out of place because we are all so close.”
The Children’s Hospital is in the process of building a new Oncology Center for Hope, where 50 percent of the space will be dedicated to patient families, with a gym and laundry facilities planned. Miles says the extra amenities will certainly be beneficial to families who want to be there while their kids get well.
“It’s going to seem really scary,” he says. “But I also have that mentality that if it’s something I’ve got to get through, let’s just get through it as best as we possibly can.”
Miles got through not one, but two bouts with cancer, and today he is five years out from his initial diagnosis. He graduated on time from high school, then took his best friend on a trip of lifetime when the Make a Wish Foundation granted Miles’ wish to play paintball with a pro team in California. He is currently in the process of earning a degree in graphic design from Pensacola State College.
More than 12,000 people have contributed to the new Children’s Hospital.
To that, Miles says:
“Thank you. People feel like their pennies don’t go a long way, but as you can see, when you get enough people together, then pennies go a very, very long way. This isn’t only going to help the children take their minds of off things and play games, this is also going to go toward research and new technologies, so the doctors can get their jobs done quicker and maybe even curtail the side effects of chemo treatment.”
Now 22 years old and no stranger to adversity, this young man has a beautiful outlook on his future.
“Anything can happen in life, you just try to make the best of it however you can,” he shares. “When I got out of the hospital for the first time, I really noticed all the small things. Life moves very, very fast. Just enjoy it.”