When Azalea's family learned she had rhabdomyosarcoma, Simone and Ricardo, knew they wanted the best care for their daughter. So they traveled from Jamaica to St. Jude to begin Azalea's treatment.
In November 2015, little Azalea was found to have a soft tissue cancer called rhabdomyosarcoma. Her mom, Simone, said, “When we got to the one pediatric oncologist in Jamaica, I just wanted to know how to get to St. Jude. My mind was set. I knew St. Jude was the right place for her.”
With a referral, Azalea arrived at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and began a treatment plan that included surgery and chemotherapy.
Azalea with Elizabeth A. Stewart, MD
“Since we were coming from another country we weren’t sure what to expect. Our insurance in Jamaica could not be used here,” said Simone. “The only thing we were sure of was that she was in the right place. We didn’t know how long we would be here or where we would stay or the cost, but when you’re told your child is critically ill you don’t think about those things. If we had to live in the street for her to be at St. Jude, we would have.”
Azalea’s doctor sat us down and one of the first things she said to us was, we can fix this. And the next best thing, she said, was that we’ll house you, you don’t have to worry about food or medical bills.
Azalea’s family was somewhat surprised that their family, like all families, would never receive a bill from St. Jude for treatment, travel, housing or food. “It is so true when they say in the commercials, the only thing we want you to worry about is taking care of your child,” said Simone.
Lively, charming Azalea became a big sister while in cancer treatment. “She shares her toys and is a very good big sister,” said Simone. She’s a social butterfly and is smart and expressive. She loves the beach, and now that she’s out of treatment and back home, she gets to go to the beach often.
Azalea still returns to St. Jude for regular checkups. And St. Jude has changed this family’s life in more ways than one. Simone said, “Seeing my child and other children fight for their lives made me realize that whatever I am faced with, I can get through it, just like they did. Each time I am confronted with a challenge, I envision the strength of a St. Jude patient.”