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Country music artist Darren Warren has a special connection to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital: At age 16 he was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma and became a patient at the hospital for three years.
A typical teenage boy, Darren enjoyed all the things his rural Kentucky hometown had to offer, such as playing ball with his friends, riding four-wheelers, working at his dad’s construction company and singing in the church where his father preached.
That all changed one autumn afternoon in 1998, when Darren reached up and felt a pronounced lump under his chin. Doctors thought it was a cyst until they surgically removed it.
"It was inflamed and irritated, and they realized that something wasn’t right," says Darren. Tissue samples were immediately sent off for testing. Darren was found to be suffering from non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a cancer of the lymphoid tissues.
"That’s a shocking place to be when you’re 16 years old," Darren says. "It’s shocking at any age, but at 16, you think you’re invincible."
At St. Jude, Darren was treated with more than two years of chemotherapy. “I tell people it’s like God put a bunch of angels that he hand-picked to work at St. Jude,” says Darren.
In addition to the support of St. Jude staff, Darren found solace in music. A budding singer-songwriter even then, Darren never lacked for inspiration at St. Jude. In fact, he wrote every song on his Tears are a Language album during treatment.
The talented up-and-coming country western musician has recorded multiple albums; but one of Darren’s greatest passions is giving back to St. Jude, the institution he credits for saving his life.
Just last year Darren toured the hospital with more than a dozen other country artists as part of the 23rd annual Country Cares seminar. They posed for pictures, signed autographs and offered encouraging words to St. Jude patients like Logan and their families.
"From the doctors to the nurses to the people who mop the halls, everybody was so sweet and caring," remembers Darren of his time at St. Jude. "You don’t find that anywhere else."