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She started as an intern at ALSAC, the fundraising organization for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, and is now a vital member of the Event & Patient Liaison Department there. This career path was made possible by the very hospital for which she works. When Tayde was 7, doctors discovered she had acute lymphoblastic leukemia, the most common form of childhood cancer. After two-and-a-half years of treatment, she breathed a sigh of relief.
Then her cancer came back two years later. This time, treatment was rougher since it was high risk leukemia. Just before she finished that treatment, the cancer came back for a third time. After another grueling year of chemotherapy and radiation, Cruz finally heard those musical words: “You’re in remission! No more chemo!”
Since finishing treatment in April of 1995, Cruz has been healthy, happy and relieved. “I just participated in the St. Jude LIFE Study, and I had successful results,” she adds. “I had spent half of my life on treatment; I couldn’t imagine being ‘normal’ again.”
But Cruz has adapted to normalcy—and revels in her health.
“It’s great to be a cancer survivor,” she says, “especially when people see me and don’t believe me. It makes me smile. I also enjoy helping patients who are going through the same things I went through.”
Cruz says she made a conscious decision to come back to the place where she had spent half of her childhood. “I had the idea of working for St. Jude since I was in treatment,” says Cruz, who has also helped the hospital by participating in fundraising events such as a radio-thon in Chicago.
She also shares her story with other patients who have relapsed. "I usually talk to the patients and their parents when I meet new families at St Jude. I want to give them hope," she explains. “I want families and kids to see that it is possible to be a survivor and to not lose faith.”