BILLINGS — All Jack Lang has dreamed about for the last three years is going back to Hawaii.
"We took him to Hawaii in January 2019 and he loved it," Jack's mom Heather said. "He loved seeing the fish and said, 'Mom, we need to go back.'"
"He loved the beach, running back and forth, splashing around," echoed dad Tyrrell. "Just being a kid without a care in the world."
Six months after that trip, Jack had more to worry about than any kid should.
"He had been complaining about stomach pains on and off, " Heather said. "So I took him to get checked out, and they said, 'Well, let's try a couple different things.'"
"It didn't go away, so a couple weeks later I took him back in, and the pediatrician felt a lump right away in his abdomen."
By that night, Jack was diagnosed with Burkitt’s Lymphoma, a rare aggressive cancer. The next day, he was Life-Flighted to Denver Children’s Hospital.
"A lot of emotions," Heather said of hearing the diagnosis that night. "Obviously losing your child came to our mind right away."
"It’s a pretty tough blow," Tyrrell added. "Not something you want to hear as a parent."
Luckily, mom and dad had Jack to show them how to get through it.
"Kids are amazing," Heather said. "They are really resilient."
"He doesn’t talk about any of the negative things, because there were a lot things that weren’t fun for him," Tyrrell said. "But he only seems to talk about the cool things."
After eight rounds of chemotherapy in four months, the Lang family heard the magic word - remission - and they finally had time to focus on something fun. Nurses had told them Jack qualified for a wish with either the nationally known Make-A-Wish Foundation or the locally-funded Montana Hope Project, which has been granting wishes to children battling life-threatening illnesses since 1984.
"We saw Billings as our community," Heather said about the choice, "so we wanted to make sure it stayed here rather than nationwide."
When the Lang's asked Jack what he wanted his wish to be, he always came back to the same thing.
"We’d occasionally bring it up, and it was always Hawaii, Hawaii," Tyrrell said.
After a two-year COVID-19 wait, Jack finally got his wish Thursday, in front of his Trailhead Christian School classmates, family, and a number of officers who wouldn’t miss the group’s 500th or so ceremony.
The whole family - mom, dad, little brother Will and little sister Lucy - leaves on Jan. 23. They'll celebrate Will's 4th birthday on the trip, and mom and dad still have a surprise or two.
"(Jack) really wanted to ride on a submarine, so we’re going to ride on a submarine," Tyrrell said. "He doesn’t know that yet - all the cats are coming out of the bag now."
This time, they’re all good surprises.