By Daniel Silliman
Eduardo Reyes can't play ball.
He likes American football, but he just has to sit to the side and watch. He used to play soccer and basketball, too, but now his left leg won't bend, and he can't run.
"I have, like, a metal knee," said Reyes, 16. "They took out my real knee and gave me an artificial knee. I just have to sit and watch. If I play too hard, I could mess [up] my leg."
Reyes refers to it as "what's wrong with me." His parents speak of it quietly, sitting on the couch in a dark, split-level house in Forest Park. The doctors call it osteosarcoma, a malignant bone cancer found in Reyes when he was 12.
"He didn't know what cancer was," said Elizabeth Reyes, Eduardo Reyes' mother. "He didn't have a lot of information. He knew it was bad, but that was all."
The day before Eduardo Reyes was diagnosed with cancer, his grandmother died of cancer, and Elizabeth Reyes heard her son was ill while she was in Mexico, trying to make arrangements for her mother.
The boy went through a lot of chemotherapy, and then the doctors removed the infected bone, leaving him with a limp and a pale pink scar. About a year ago, surgeons cut out his cancer-infected left knee, and now Reyes is doing pretty well, except he walks with a limp and his parents are worried all the time.
"They removed all that was bad," said Miguel Mendez, Eduardo Reyes' stepfather. "He is good, you know, but we are always concerned."
For years, though, Reyes was in and out of the hospital, and the family was struggling to support each other, and deal with the disease.
"He had to go to the hospital every other week for chemo and he'd stay for two and three days. But when he came home, for two, three days, it was bad. He would throw up or bleed," Mendez said.
In the middle of that process, the family's social worker told them about the Make-A-Wish Foundation. The social worker told them they should send an application to the 28-year-old foundation, which tries to enrich the lives of deathly-ill children by granting wishes. Mendez said they had never heard of the foundation before.
Eduardo Reyes said his first thought, when he heard about the offer to grant his wish, was that he would go shopping.
"If I've got money, I like to shop," he said. "I like shoes."
His mother told him, though, that he needed to make a better choice, and so he chose a family vacation, to Brazil, Hawaii or Mexico. His first choice was the beach in Brazil, but the family spent a week on the beach in a resort in Mexico, outside of Guadalajara. They rode horses, ate at restaurants and rode jet skis.
"It was exciting," Reyes said. "We had fun -- A lot of fun."
For Mendez and Elizabeth Reyes, the vacation was good because of what didn't happen.
"When we were in Mexico," Mendez said. "We forgot about things like bills, mortgage, all those things. We just forgot about them."