Cancer survivor has gift of giving

Amy Grant performs during a taping for NBC’s show “Three Wishes” Sunday at Ned Houk Park. Grant’s performance finished at 1 a.m. Monday due to a weather delay. (Staff photo: Andrew Chavez)

By Marlena Hartz: CNJ staff writer

Exhibiting a rare talent for a child her age, Carlee Luscombe, 8, has mastered the skill of being completely still.

Every six months, the flaxen-haired cancer survivor needs an MRI. The machine takes magnetic photographs of her brain, only four years ago, home to a malignant tumor. The process requires Carlee remain completely still for sometimes more than 30 minutes.

“It feels like you are going through a tunnel and you get stuck, and then someone’s hammering on the side, it’s loouud,” said Carlee, drawing out the vowels in the last word dramatically.

The MRI is one of the less traumatic medical treatments the young girl has endured, among the worst, chemotherapy. But it was her generosity that fascinated the producers of “Three Wishes,” not her former disease.

Her wish: To shower the patients of Lubbock’s Covenant Children’s Hospital cancer ward with gifts, of their choice, according to her family members and the TV reality show’s producer.

“Carlee,” said “Three Wishes” Executive Producer Andrew Glassman, “very unselfishly said she wanted to make a wish for others instead of herself.”

When she showed up at a Farwell casting call, Glassman was smitten.

“Carlee has the biggest smile of anyone I’ve ever met, adults and children. She is a completely endearing, brave, strong little woman … I personally get nervous at the sight of a hospital. Nothing makes me more uncomfortable than to walk down the hallways, to watch a little child be able to do that with such poise, and lead by example — it’s very inspiring,” Glassman said.

Carlee’s oncologist was presented with a $10,000 check at an Amy Grant concert Sunday at Ned Houk Park. Grant will host the TV show, which grants wishes.

Books will also be donated to the hospital, said Glassman, and Carlee, along with Grant, presented the children at the hospital with a gallery of gifts, including a doll house, a bicycle, and, to one little boy, boots, a belt, and a cowboy hat.

“They gave me some stuff, so I thought I should give them something,” said Carlee, who was handed a puppy upon completion of radiation therapy, courtesy of those who treated her at a Lubbock cancer center.

Such golden-rule logic, remarkable to “Three Wishes” producers, is expressed nonchalantly by Carlee. When asked why she wanted this particular wish to be granted, instead of a million possible others, she answered matter-of-factly with the short sentence, her tone hinting that the question, in her opinion, was unnecessary. Her father, Richard, and mother, Jo Ann, theorize that cancer — months of hospitalization, routine intravenous applications, countless ingested pills — taught her how to be giving.

“She knows and remembers what she went through and she wants to give back,” said her father. “It would have been very easy for her to ask for a horse or a lot of different things, but that was never brought up” he said, the comment, in a separate conversation, echoed by his wife.

The “Three Wishes” camera crew trailed Carlee for an entire day, said her father, filming a trip to the hospital where she regularly receives MRIs. The Luscombe episode, the show’s executive producer said proudly, like the girl’s wish, is unique, a goal of all the series’ wish-grants, he said. The two other wishes granted in the Clovis area, he said, stand as a testimony to that goal.

The show also flew a struggling little league team to Arlington, Texas, for a day of training with the Texas Rangers, Glassman said, and gave a Farwell single mother a beauty salon of her own, and a lesson with celebrity hair-stylist and “Blow Out” star Jonathan Antin.

“Part of the appeal of the show is that we keep finding different people with different stories, and they are all so likable and warm in their own way, so the feel of the show is constantly changing,” Glassman said.

From his cell phone, back in bustling L.A., Glassman reviewed his time in “the cattle capital of the southwest,” as crew members wrapped up final details on site.

“We had a terrific time in Clovis,” Glassman said. “And we think people will be extremely pleased by the way they are represented.”

The Clovis episode, he said, will probably appear in late September or early October on NBC.

Officials with the “Three Wishes” TV show said the main wishes they granted Clovis-area residents were:

• Books and other gifts to patients of Lubbock’s Covenant Children’s Hospital cancer ward, as requested by Texico’s Carlee Luscombe.

• A day of training with the Texas Rangers for a local little league team.

• A salon for a single mother from Farwell.