St. Jude patient Anwar, age 1, retinoblastoma

Two of a kind

A reflection from the sun made Katherine look twice at her son, Anwar. The glare in his eye told her all she needed to know. Tests confirmed he had eye cancer — the very same cancer Katherine had when she was a child. The family's journey from their home country of Barbados to St. Jude had begun. 

As the sun reflected off her neighbor’s roof and through her own window, Katherine made herself look twice at her son. When she saw the same glare in her baby’s eye for the second time, she knew.

Just months old, Anwar was given a diagnosis of retinoblastoma, a cancer of the eye. Katherine’s own mother saw the very same glare in Katherine’s eye when she was a child. She, too, had suffered from the disease.

Doctors in their home country of Barbados told Katherine that Anwar would certainly lose his eye, because she couldn’t afford the cancer treatments. “I know what it was like to grow up with a prosthetic,” Katherine reflected on her own experience. “People were saying, ‘He’ll only have one eye.’ But I’m his mom and I was going to try everything.”

 

By chance, Katherine saw a commercial for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital on her neighbor’s television. Her doctors were able to make a referral, and Katherine and Anwar traveled to the United States to save his eye and his life.

Families never receive a bill from St. Jude for treatment, travel, housing or food — because all a family should worry about is helping their child live. “You give families something to hope for,” Katherine said of St. Jude donors. 

Anwar is a determined and inquisitive toddler. His treatment includes 11 rounds of chemotherapy, which puts him away from home for nearly a year.

But Katherine is touched by the level of care and kindness at St. Jude that makes it a home away from home. “Everyone is very friendly and helpful,” she said. “If there is a policy for everyone at St. Jude to smile, it’s a really good policy.”

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