Genie surprises cancer survivor with day of luxuryWritten by Amy Biolchini | | ABiolchini@toledofreepress.com
A blue genie surprised cancer survivor Trish Williams with three wishes Nov. 4.
Joshua Dawson, the “Experience Genie,” dresses up in a blue genie mask to surprise deserving cancer survivors with a day of fun activities. After losing his own father to cancer six years ago, Dawson was inspired to help others forget about the circumstances of their condition in a way that he wasn’t able to help his dad. After “coming out of the lamp” in June 2009, Dawson has been able to surprise over 40 individuals.
Williams, 60, has battled breast cancer for 12 and a half years. Expecting to speak about her experience with cancer, Williams was visibly overwhelmed when she was greeted by her family, the media and the blue genie at Vin Devers Autohaus in Sylvania.
“I was very surprised,” Williams said. “I’m just stunned. It’s nothing I ever expected.”
Williams and the genie left the auto dealer in a $100,000 Mercedes G550 for the airport, where Williams piloted a plane for the first time.
“If she’s taking controls of the plane I’m not sure I want to be there for that,” her husband, Tom Williams, said with a smile.
After the plane ride, Williams received a special massage for cancer patients and a makeover from Ahava Spa & Wellness Center. Later she retired to the Hilton Toledo.
First diagnosed with breast cancer in 1998, Williams went through surgery, reconstruction and chemotherapy. She went into remission for 11 years, dedicating her time to counseling cancer patients and coordinating fundraising events for local charities, including Bedford Township Relay for Life and St. Anne Mercy Hospital. Williams would call women with breast cancer before they received surgery to offer her support and advice through the process.
One year ago, Williams’ cancer metastasized and moved into her bones. Her husband said she tired very easily and couldn’t get off the couch for months.
“It was very, very bad last year at this time. We really thought she wouldn’t make it to Christmas,” Tom Williams said.
Trish Williams received her last blood transfusion in the spring and is now in stable condition. She made it to the delivery room for the birth of her third grandchild, who is now 5 months old.
“People ask me if I’m angry. I’m not angry, that doesn’t solve anything,” Williams said. “The lesson I learned is that no one should go through this by themselves, ever. I didn’t give a lot of thought to others before I had the cancer. This really opened your eyes and makes you feel for other people.”
As the Experience Genie, Dawson and his assistant, Ingrid Thornhill, work with local charities and cancer organizations to identify deserving candidates across the U.S. and in Canada. Locally, Renee’s Survivor Shop has been involved with Williams and coordinated the event with the Montreal-based Experience Genie.
“Surprising the people is the best part,” Dawson said. “We’ve even had some people cry.”
Dawson dons a silicone mask that he had designed from historic depictions of genies. He can move his eyebrows, but is having a new mask designed because it’s difficult for him to talk.
“We have local sponsors that provide the experience,” Dawson said. “When I first started doing it I was paying out of my own pocket, but that’s not very sustainable.”
Jason Perry, sales manager at Vin Devers Autohaus, worked with the genie to make the event happen.
“The Devers family believes in giving back to the community,” Perry said. “It was a no-brainer to get involved.”
All of the employees at the dealership were present in the showroom to see the genie surprise Williams.
“Not too many places have that kind of reception,” Perry said, and the genie nodded in agreement.