It’s almost always sunny in Jamaica, where Azalea and her family live. They spend a lot of time on the beach. Life is laid back. But in January 2016, a cloud settled over Azalea’s parents, Simone and Ricardo, when they learned she had a type of soft tissue cancer called rhabdomyosarcoma. “Everything became dark,” Ricardo said.
Azalea’s family obtained a referral to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, and as soon as they arrived, everything changed. “Hearing that your 2-year-old has cancer is the most devastating news a parent could ever get,” said Simone. “We were familiar with St. Jude because of their commercials. We knew St. Jude was the best possible place for a child with cancer, and that’s what we wanted for Azalea.”
Treatments invented at St. Jude have helped push the overall childhood cancer survival rate from 20% to more than 80% since it opened more than 50 years ago. St. Jude is working to drive the overall survival rate for childhood cancer to 90%, and we won’t stop until no child dies from cancer.
At St. Jude, Azalea’s treatment included surgery and chemotherapy. While in Memphis, Tenn., where St. Jude is located, Simone gave birth to a baby girl named Hadley, whom Azalea adores. Azalea is finished with treatment and her family is back home. When it’s time for Azalea’s checkups, the whole family comes back to St. Jude. Memphis has become a second home for them and, by extension, St. Jude has become a part of their family.
“All I saw was darkness when Azalea was diagnosed,” Ricardo said. “St. Jude brought me back to life. Now I look forward to going to the beach with her, to seeing her grow up.” Simone puts her thoughts about St. Jude simply. “St. Jude saved our lives,” she said. “They saved our family.”