A Photo Shoot Inspires California Teen to Pay It Forward
Advocacy This is the story of how one day in front of the cameras gave a young patient new perspective on life — and hope for the future.
Life as a teenager is difficult enough. Being told you have cancer takes that to another level.
“I was 13 years old and in the eighth grade,” explains Madi Dehghi, who was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma in December 2012. “I had a bad cold and my doctor thought I had bronchitis, but since I was feeling worse my mom took me back. The chest X-Ray showed a huge mass covering the entire left side of my chest wall.”
Madi began treatments right away, including five chemotherapies.
“I needed to be hospitalized for about a week each time, and go for daily radiation treatments for about six weeks. For months, I had many doctor appointments, scans and blood work.”
Ready for her close-up
From a hospital social worker, Madi learned that her Make-A-Wish request would be granted. She chose to take part in a photo shoot, complete with a professional portfolio.
“At the time, I was really into fashion and runway modeling. Losing my hair was a big deal, and for a long time I did not feel comfortable with my appearance.
'“My wish gave me a level of confidence I didn’t have since being diagnosed — maybe even ever."'
“The shoot was a lot of fun,” she adds. “There were hair and makeup artists, a professional photographer and two assistants for extra help and styling. The photographer had photographed many famous models, and his work is in all the fashion magazines. I had lots of clothes to change into, and he drove his antique-looking Volkswagen bus to use as a prop for some of the pictures.”
A much-needed distraction
For Madi's mother, Farnaz, the wish helped the family deal with the devastating news.
“I can recall every detail of the room in the ER,” she says. “The color of the scarf the female oncologist was wearing, as they pulled my husband and me into an empty room to tell us the news that Madi had some form of cancer. The look on my husband’s face, the pain that I saw in his eyes, is forever etched into my heart.
“When Madi decided to have a professional modeling portfolio, her dad and I were not aware just how imperative this wish would be to her sense of self, and confidence. Madi had so much fun from the moment the wish started the week prior to the photo shoot. Make-A-Wish gave Madi more than just some beautiful photos. It gave Madi the confidence and courage to be seen.”
Only the beginning
“My wish experience has given me more than I can probably express in words,” agrees Madi, who is currently in remission. “Days after my photo shoot, I was able to go to school without my wig. Until that day, I would not go anywhere with my natural hair. Seeing my pictures and hearing everyone’s positive comments allowed me to see myself as 'normal,’ and maybe even pretty.
“My wish gave me a level of confidence I didn’t have since being diagnosed — maybe even ever."
As Madi, now age 18, prepares to attend college she vows to continue giving back to the foundation that helped her during a very difficult time. “I have participated as an ambassador for Make-A-Wish, and in several fundraising events and walks,” she says. “I enjoy these opportunities because it allows me to educate others about the awesome things Make-A-Wish does for kids.”