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In the spring of 1962, time was running out for Dwight Tosh, a 13-year-old boy with Hodgkin disease. The prognosis was so bleak that doctors in Arkansas had given up on his chance for survival.
Needing a miracle, Tosh’s family heard about a newly opened pediatric cancer center in Memphis, Tennessee, called St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
Tosh was quickly transferred to the hospital, becoming the 17th patient in the facility’s brief history. And thanks to the treatment he received at St. Jude during the next few years, Tosh became one of its first cancer survivors.
Now 58 years old, cancer free for more than 40 years and among the thousands cured at St. Jude, Tosh returned last fall to pay tribute to the place that saved his life.
Tosh and his wife, Joan, along with 500 other survivors and family members, celebrated the hospital’s 10th annual Survivors Day by reuniting with fellow patients, reconnecting with doctors and nurses, and recounting the myriad ways St. Jude has answered their prayers.
Although Tosh was the oldest survivor to return, he describes an unbreakable bond that develops among those treated at St. Jude —regardless of race, religion or age.
“I see the other survivors and I know, even though we shared a different time and a different era, that we all have the same thing in common,” Tosh says. “We were all patients here—at a place that was our last hope.”
For Tosh, who finished his treatment before many of his fellow survivors were even born, memories of the experience have faded in the past four decades.
Still, he remembers meeting Danny Thomas and the Three Stooges. He remembers being wheeled through a tunnel from St. Jude to the old St. Joseph Hospital for radiation. And he remembers his mother sleeping in a recliner next to him each night, never leaving his side.
As Tosh reminisces, he takes a moment to reflect on what St. Jude has meant to the multitude of people whose hope was restored in their darkest hours.
“Not all of us made it,” Tosh says. “But the fact is, if we hadn’t had the hospital, none of us would have made it. St. Jude gave us a fighting chance.”