Sitting on a couch in his Fairview Heights home with a cat purring in his lap, Christian Rau, 15, had a hard time deciding his favorite part of a week-long trip to Hawaii.
"Food" was his initial thought -- in particular Vietnamese Pho soup at the Pho Bistro Square. However, Christian finally decided North Shores in Oahu, Hawaii, was the best thing about the trip.
"One of the coolest things was at North Shores when we were swimming by coral reefs and four manta rays just swam by," said Christian, a sophomore at Belleville East High School. "It was really cool. It was out of nowhere."
Christian's wish to visit a beach for the first time was granted by the Make-A-Wish Foundation with help from a local business, Shiloh Chiropractic, which raised the $7,500 needed to send Christian, who has leukemia, and his family on the trip of a lifetime.
"It's always kind of in the back of your mind," he said about having leukemia. "It was really easy to forget about that while in Hawaii. It was really awesome of them -- for Make A Wish to do this kind of stuff for people like us. It was an awesome experience."
Christian, his father Jeff and stepmother Amy Rau, who married in 2006, and siblings Maddie Frawley, 10, and Brandon Frawley, 14, were whisked off in a limo Sept. 15 on their journey to Hawaii.
When the family finally arrived after a 10-hour flight, Amy, 34, said Christian wanted to go to the beach right away. "We went to a lot of beaches," Christian said.
The week-long trip also included a helicopter ride, parasailing, snorkeling and swimming. Christian and his family even climbed Diamond Head Mountain.
"The hike up was pretty tiring. It was kind of difficult," he said. "Once you got to the top, the view was amazing. Not as great as the helicopter, but it was a really cool view."
Christian got to sit in the front seat of a helicopter during a sightseeing tour in Hawaii. "The takeoff was a lot shakier than a regular plane," he said. "The view was insane. The front was almost a panoramic view. I took a lot of pictures."
Christian has been battling leukemia for more than a year and half. He was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, on Friday, April 13, 2012, the evening before they were supposed to head to Champaign for the state finals of the Science Olympiad.
"Instead of going to the state finals, we went to the emergency room," said Jeff, 43.
The only symptom Christian had was leg pain, Amy said. After several weeks of Christian complaining of the pain, Amy asked his pediatrician to do some blood work. The tests showed low platelets.
"The first eight months were extremely hard," Amy said. "It was a lot of hospital stays. We were barely home."
When Christian was first diagnosed, his father Jeff was going through treatment for testicular cancer. "He was sick and feeling like crap when I was in the hospital with Christian," Amy said of Jeff, who will be two years cancer free in February.
Amy works as a site supervisor for Memorial Hospital Medical Group, and Jeff is a firefighter at MidAmerica St. Louis Airport. Jeff's also a captain at the Fairview Fire Department.
Right now, Christian's leukemia is "in maintenance," Amy explained, which means he takes "a lot of pills" and gets chemotherapy through an IV and a spinal tap once a month.
When asked how he's feeling, Christian said, "good, fine, normalish." Christian goes to school everyday with the exception of when he goes to Cardinal Glennon in St. Louis for his monthly treatment.
He was home schooled by his parents for the first six months of his freshman year of high school. Now, Christian said he's active in school and rattled off the list of clubs he's involved in -- drama, robotics, film and ecology.
"If everything goes well, August 2015 would be his remission date," Amy said. "It takes three and a half years of treatment for it to be in remission."
Contact reporter Jamie Forsythe at 239-2562 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Meet Christian Rau
City: Fairvieiw Heights
Family: Father Jeff and stepmother Amy Rau, sister Maddie Frawley, 10, and brother Brandon Frawley, 14
School: Sophomore at Belleville East
School clubs: Drama, robotics, film and ecology
Hobbies: Playing video games, drawing and reading
Favorite book series: "Eragon" (Inheritance, Book 1) by Christopher Paolini
Future plans: Going to college or joining the military
Dream job: "I want to do a job that involves video games -- design and creation," he said.