Just over a year ago, Mustapha Khawaja was preparing to attend college at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, when swelling in his right lymph node led to an unfortunate diagnosis: acute lymphoblastic leukemia.
Though his treatment is not yet over, Khawaja is in remission and was granted a request from the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Khawaja and his mother, Brenda Gant, were awarded an all expenses paid trip to Brazil, just in time to see games at the 2014 World Cup. Make-A-Wish Greater Los Angeles visited Khawaja on June 3 at his home in La Crescenta, presenting him with a poster, backpack and a soccer jersey from his favorite Premier League team, Chelsea.
Khawaja grew up in Saudi Arabia where he played on his school’s soccer team as the goalkeeper. After graduating from high school, Khawaja moved to Florida, receiving the unfortunate news of his diagnosis around that time.
Khawaja still faces another two or three more years of treatment, but his mother said, “We were lucky that they caught it early.” Acute lymphoblastic leukemia is usually very treatable for young children, but much less so for adults, making 18-year-old Khawaja’s prognosis of survival a promising one.
Gant said that the treatment has obviously not been easy, but Khawaja is “otherwise doing well.”
Khawaja’s grandmother, Mary Gant, spoke of how his love of the game couldn’t keep him down, even while undergoing treatment at Children’s Hospital.
“He would push the technicians to let him watch games on TV,” said Gant.
It was there at Children’s Hospital where the Make-A-Wish Foundation approached the family. With the World Cup coming in summer, it was not difficult for Khawaja to settle on his wish. Though Saudi Arabia was knocked out of a potential World Cup bid, Khawaja will still be there to see his favorite sport played out on the big field.