'Saturday Night Live' 's Vanessa Bayer Opens Up About Her Teenage Battle Against Leukemia

The comedian was diagnosed with cancer when she was 15

Photo: Cindy Ord/Getty

Vanessa Bayer might be known for her hilarious impressions on Saturday Night Live, but before the comedian and former Make-A-Wish kid hit it big, she battled leukemia at just 15 years old.

“Being a sick child is obviously extremely difficult,” says Bayer, now 33. “You’re in hospitals all the time undergoing treatments, and you’re not getting to do all of the things that other kids your age are doing.”

During her cancer battle, Bayer and her family were chosen by the Make-A-Wish Foundation – a non-profit that arranges experiences for children with life-threatening medical conditions – to take a family trip to Hawaii.

“As a child or young adult going through an illness, it can be stressful at times and boring and extremely alienating,” says Bayer, who underwent 10 days of radiation as well as 11 months of intense chemotherapy and two years of follow-up chemo.

“It is so powerful to get to experience a wish, and it was amazing. I remember a stretch limousine picked us up to take us to the airport, and it was my first time ever in a limo.”

Now, nearly 18 years after the foundation granted her wish, Bayer is thrilled with the opportunity to work with the organization again by serving as the host of the 2015 Evening of Wishes fundraising gala.

“[The] Make-A-Wish trip was such a special time for me to be away from hospitals and from all of the stressful, bad things we were dealing with. It was truly a wonderful, uplifting experience,” she says.

“It was an overwhelming feeling be able to give back to an organization that helped me through such a difficult time. To contribute in any way to granting more kids a wish experience as joyful and uplifting as mine was just amazing,” she continues. “Plus, having my family and my wish granter at the gala made the whole evening feel very full-circle.”

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