Making the grade

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Making the gradeTraining tomorrow's scientists and clinicians
A St. Jude family enjoys reading time.Danny Thomas unveils the statue of St. Jude Thaddeus at the entrance to the hospital on February 4, 1962.

Making the grade

Sam takes pencil to paper. In his cartoon, cancer comes alive as a demented monster, bigger than life. It has horns, sharp fangs and whites for eyes. It looks like a dinosaur on crack—stupid but deadly.

This monster, cancer, has its arms outstretched. It’s coming after Sam.

But Sam is a fighter.

Case in point: On May 19, 2012, Sam walked across the stage as his high school valedictorian, despite the fact he’s been battling medulloblastoma, a brain tumor, for almost three years.

His cancer treatment began at a hospital near his home in 2009, but in 2011 when the cancer came back, Sam was told by local doctors he didn’t have a chance.

But Sam and his parents wouldn’t give up. The family turned to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. In August 2011, Sam entered a clinical trial involving an experimental drug called GDC0449. The results, at first, were encouraging, but in December 2011, after scans indicated tumor regrowth, Sam underwent brain surgery.

Since then, Sam has been treated at St. Jude with a number of experimental chemotherapies, as well as radiation therapy, to combat his recurrent tumor growth. During this time, the family has never received a bill. St. Jude treats the world’s sickest children with the best care, and no family ever pays St. Jude for anything. His parents couldn’t be more grateful.

If Sam had never gotten treatment from St. Jude, he might not have made it to graduation. The St. Jude School program presented by Target also gave Sam the resources he needed to keep up with his classes and still be valedictorian.The young man has so much potential, such a great mind.

Sam has a full scholarship to Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI), where he will be a freshman in the fall. He will study Health Sciences, with the hope of someday becoming a pediatric oncologist. St. Jude wants Sam to have his future.

In Sam’s cartoon, he’s much smaller than cancer. He’s short and bald. He shouldn’t have a chance. But Sam is determined, angry and armed. He won’t go without a fight. He sizes up the monster before him. He takes his sword and thrusts to the gut.

Sam versus cancer
Illustration by St. Jude patient Sam.

Editor's note: We regret to inform you that Sam passed away in January 2013.


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