St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital is in the midst of a multi-billion dollar expansion that will further the reach of research and treatment to kids around the globe. From my office, I can see one facet of this plan take shape, as the foundation of the new $412 million comprehensive research center is put down, and it occurs to me the construction workers could be building that foundation on a bed of milestones.
At St. Jude, we count each milestone, each one more precious than the next. Birthdays, proms, graduations and holidays such as Halloween, always a special time for the kids. These moments are measures of our success.
I was recently blessed to be part of a celebration of life for two very special people. Joel and Lindsey met as children when they were both patients at St. Jude — he had bone cancer, she had blood cancer. They rekindled their friendship years later as colleagues at ALSAC, the fundraising and awareness organization for St. Jude, fell in love and were married last month in the gold-domed ALSAC/Danny Thomas Pavilion here on the campus of St. Jude in Memphis, Tenn.
It was one of those special moments that emphasize our lifesaving mission. When Danny Thomas cut the ribbon and opened the doors of St. Jude in 1962, a cancer diagnosis was a death sentence in almost every case. In more than 50 years, treatments developed here have helped raise the overall childhood cancer survival rate to more than 80%, and the survival rate of acute lymphoblastic leukemia, the most common form of childhood cancer, to 94%.
What that means is that we are increasingly focused on quality of life for our patients because life is increasingly more possible. What that meant at Joel and Lindsey’s wedding, is that they were surrounded by fellow survivors.
The spirit of life was palpable in the room that day.
I, personally, felt something special as I walked Lindsey down the aisle with her father — it was the presence of Danny and the presence of my own father, who was my mentor and a previous CEO of ALSAC.
But there was more as I reflected on the children who couldn’t be with us that day, who would never have weddings of their own or walk their children down the aisle. Their memory inspires me and all of us at St. Jude daily.
The loss of their precious lives is why we work so hard to raise funds and awareness, so that researchers and doctors have the resources needed to eradicate pediatric cancer and other life-threatening diseases.