By: Siobhan Cole
Some kids dream of becoming an astronaut. Some dream of becoming rock stars.
Some, like PJ Lakhanpal, dream of becoming a politician. However, when you’ve got cancer knocking on your door, life becomes less about dreaming about the future and more struggling with the day-to-day. Lakhanpal spent about a year fighting Hodgkin lymphoma. It’s a type of cancer that attacks the immune system, specifically the lymphatic system.
“It was awful”, says Lakhanpal. “It was like walking through the ninth circle of hell. I was moody, irritable, and the slightest thing would upset me. I was so weak, physically and mentally.”
However, walk through hell he did. Eventually, Lakhanpal’s doctors were thrilled to deliver to the Brampton teenager the diagnosis he and his family had been waiting for: he was finally in remission.
“It felt like I won the LottoMax”, laughs Lakhanpal, the joy still palpable in his voice. “I was so happy. So, so happy.”
As part of criteria from the Make-A-Wish Foundation, he was able to receive one wish. PJ didn’t overthink it. “I procrastinated for a while. I wanted something extraordinary. And so I came up with it on the spot.”
PJ, who was recently granted a wish by the Make-A-Wish Foundation, chose to be Prime Minister for a day. The Make-A-Wish wish coordinator didn’t even blink, and called the teenager soon after with more good news: pack your bags for Ottawa.
What followed was a whirlwind experience mimicking some of Prime Minister Trudeau’s schedule. There was swearing-in ceremony, getting a security detail, and meeting with other key political figures such as Governor-General David Johnston. When asked what the best part of the whole experience was, Pakhanpal says it’s impossible to choose. “I can’t pick one moment”, he chuckles. “Every moment was equally as good”.
The icing on the cake, of course, was meeting Justin Trudeau himself. “He was a really nice guy,” says Lakhanpal. “It was like talking to a friend”.
So what advice does the one-time Prime Minster have for Canadians? What does he have to say about major issues facing the country, such as multiculturalism? “Embrace it,” says Lakhanpal emphatically. There’s been so much dividing through history. We can unite under common goals and interests. We can unite under the ideals of multiculturalism and democracy”.