A black and white photo hanging on the wall of Deborah’s home is one of the few images remaining of her beloved little sister, Lisa, who died at just 2 years old from leukemia.
And on one particular morning last November, Deborah walked into the living room with her morning cup of tea to see that very photograph featured in a Mazda commercial about the legacy of St. Jude Children's Research Hospital founder Danny Thomas and Mazda’s commitment to St. Jude. Deborah was stunned, elated and ready to share her story with the world.
In 1965, Deborah was 11 years old. She and little sister Lisa were best friends, inseparable.
"Lisa was the most loving child," Deborah recalled. "I used to take her around the neighborhood and pretend that she was my baby. We loved playing hide and seek in the backyard."
That year, Lisa developed symptoms similar to whooping cough, but even after visiting her doctor, she wasn't getting better. Lisa's mother took her to St. Jude, the first integrated children's hospital in the South, where Lisa was diagnosed with leukemia.
Her treatment included chemotherapy, but, tragically, Lisa lost her battle with cancer that same year.
I know St. Jude did everything in their power to save Lisa, especially at that time,” she said. “It was so very early in learning about those diseases and cancers.
Deborah’s memories of the hospital at that time are few, but her fond memories of St. Jude’s positive impact are many.
“I know St. Jude did everything in their power to save Lisa, especially at that time,” she said. “It was so very early in learning about those diseases and cancers.” Treatments invented at St. Jude have helped push the overall childhood cancer survival rate from 20 percent to more than 80 percent since it opened 53 years ago.
Lisa’s family still donates to St. Jude regularly and toured the hospital last year, noting the many changes and advancements in care that have occurred. “We are just so very proud of St. Jude, and we do anything that we can,” Deborah declared. “I’ve always said, ‘If I ever get a million dollars, St. Jude has it.’”
Deborah is grateful to the supporters of St. Jude. “The world can’t do without St. Jude,” she said. “So give and give as much as you can.”