It’s not every day you meet a former patient from St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. When I was 17 I met my now husband, Brandon, on a spring break cruise. The first time I saw him in a bathing suit I could not help but notice the jagged scar running down the middle of his abdomen. I waited a day to ask about it, expecting a crazy story – but not anticipating one that involved a life threatening tumor. Today I’m sharing how St. Jude saved my husband’s life.
How St. Jude Saved My Husband’s Life
Brandon has very little memory of his diagnosis and treatment at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. He was only 2 years old when his Mom first noticed his tiny belly protruding outwards under his clothing. Today I’m sharing his Mom, Sherry’s, memories of the scariest time of her life in motherhood.
“When Brandon was two we were taking a picture of him and his new 2 week old brother. His stomach was distended and very hard, so much so that it made it impossible to zip his pants. The next morning we called for an appointment with a local physician. Upon seeing him and having a CAT scan, we were immediately referred to St. Jude. There was a large tumor in his abdomen which looked cancerous. Those were the longest days of my life.
St. Jude was 6 hours away and the drive seemed to take days. Upon arrival, we were greeted with such lovely people. I remember my first walk into the building. It was one that will never be erased from my memory. There were children everywhere with no hair and they were not crying or sad, but laughing and smiling. Games and toys and all the nurses and doctors were smiling.
How could this be? I remember asking the nurse, “What if it is not cancer?” She hugged me and said, “Honey, we will be there for you all of the way.”
I remember asking her about money, and she said that everything from treatment to the hotel and food would be taken care of. All we had to do is focus on loving on our little one. I felt like this must be a little heaven here on earth.”
St. Jude Children’s Hospital Survival Story
Brandon recalls a few moments from his stay at St. Jude despite his young age. He remembers being in a big room with lots of toys and children without hair. His distaste for milk today stems from the milk and medicine the doctors gave him while at St. Jude.
Sherry tells us of the miracle they witnessed while at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. “After weeks of testing and biopsies, they could not find a match to his tumor. They were going to go on and start treatment because it was growing so fast. On the morning of his first treatment, they got a call from Bethesda that the tumor was a rare benign tumor of which there had only been 4 in the world. They would be flying a doctor in from another country who had operated on one of the other tumors. We were advised that even though it was not cancerous it could still be life threatening because of the size and the location.
After surgery, the doctor and nurse met us in the waiting room. I remember the nurse hugged me and said, “You got yourself a Christmas Miracle.” We went back every six weeks to St. Jude for six months to make sure the tumor was not coming back, but Brandon has been healthy ever since. He is now 36 years old.”
What St. Jude Means to Our Family
My husband and I are very passionate about supporting St. Jude, donating to every fundraiser we encounter. We believe it’s so important to give back to St. Jude for saving My Husband’s Life. Our daughters are now past the age at which he was when he first entered St. Jude, and we cannot help but imagine the fear his parents felt so long ago after his diagnosis. His Mom’s account of the kindness of all the staff and medical professionals, the gentleness with which they cared for her son, touches our hearts – and we want to be able to help fund the hospital’s research and the care they give to children every day.
How We Support St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital
One of our favorite fundraisers is our daughters’ preschool’s annual St. Jude Trike-a-Thon. My daughters raise money for the event, asking family and friends to donate in honor of their Dad. They then ride their tricycles at the school for an hour, ringing the bells on their handle bars, to honor the children at St. Jude. It’s such an incredible feeling knowing the donations we collect each year will help a family someday.
We also have helped spread word of Dudley Stephen’s St. Jude fundraisers. Dudley Stephens is a Connecticut based brand I’ve loved for years, not just for their clothing made from recycled plastic bottles, but also their mission to give back to the community. Last year Dudley Stephens designed a DS Gives blanket with 100% of retail sales going towards their goal of $100,000 donated to St. Jude.
This spring Dudley Stephens will be raising money for St. Jude’s again. From April 29th – May 2nd, Dudley Stephens will match all St. Jude donations made on their site, and offer free shipping on purchases.
My husband says that St. Jude will always hold a place in his heart as a symbol of hope, generosity, and ultimately the reason he survived a rare tumor. We teach our daughters, Annabelle 7 and Ailey 4, about the wonderful hospital filled with incredible people who saved their Daddy’s life when he was little. We teach our daughters to share how St. Jude changed his life. We hope they continue to find ways to donate to the hospital as a way to show our gratitude and thanks for their mission.
Brandon’s Mom says it best when asked about her relationship with St. Jude. “I like to think of the hospital as God’s hands there to help at a time that was so life altering. The nurse’s quote to me on our first day is exactly what the hospital was for me. Everything was taken care of so I could focus on my child. I hope that all others that visit there can feel that peace in a moment of such turmoil.”