We celebrate Thanksgiving next week and I look forward to spending time with my family and giving thanks for our blessings. The following week brings the St. Jude Memphis Marathon Weekend®, when I will be fortunate to spend time with my St. Jude family.
Not only is it our largest single-day fundraiser in a year that sees 31,000 fundraising events, but the Memphis marathon is also a homecoming for former patients and families. It is a beautiful weekend with patients and families reconnecting with doctors, caregivers and friends made while in treatment.
This year, there are at least 750 patients or patient family members registered. Many will wear armbands — gold in honor of survivors or those currently in treatment, purple in memory of those no longer with us.
One patient father, Dean, took up running to cope with the loss of his daughter and, in doing so, shed 90 pounds and overcame the darkness of depression.
“I can’t imagine that first week of December without doing this because it’s such a highlight of my year,” he said. “When I climb the hills, I think of Sydney, and I think of her as she was battling cancer and I can do this, I can do this.”
Samantha is a college student who lost part of a leg and part of a lung to childhood cancer. Her homecoming offers the opportunity to visit with her doctors and to write the same message year after year on a whiteboard at the St. Jude School Program by Chili’s: “Sam loves you.”
I’m so thankful for inspirational patients like Samantha and loving parents like Dean, and for all of our supporters. Giving thanks is such a big part of who we are. After all, Danny Thomas founded St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital as a way to say thank you to the country that his parents emigrated to and where he found so much success.
But I’m merely the messenger. Other representations of thankfulness abound at St. Jude, like the ABCs of Cancer, which is a project coordinated by our Child Life team. On one brightly colored wall in the hospital is an alphabetical look at the good, the bad and the ugly of childhood cancer and cancer treatment.
Combined, the 26 letters from A to Z create a powerful, authentic look at what it means for a child to navigate cancer at St. Jude. In each of those letters is a story, none more applicable to this time of year than the letter “T.”
“Thank you doctors. Thank you nurses. Thank you scientists.”
Those are the words of Pyper, a 7-year-old brain tumor patient, echoed from all of us at ALSAC/St. Jude to all of you, our supporters: “Thank you volunteers. Thank you donors. We are thankful for St. Jude helping us get healthy.”