Sometimes the road of life takes you to an unexpected place.
In December 2011, when Lee Ann's son, Brodey, was 3 years old, she ran the half marathon during the St. Jude Memphis Marathon Weekend as a way to stay in shape. “I’ve always been into fitness,” she said, “and I knew that St. Jude was a good cause.”
She could not have known that one day she'd be looking to St. Jude to save her child’s life. Brodey’s recent vomiting and headaches, thought to stem from sinus problems or migraines, were actually a sign of something far worse. A CT scan earlier this year showed Brodey had a brain tumor, a type called medulloblastoma.
Surgeons at a local hospital were able to remove about 95% of the tumor. Brodey was then referred to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Doctors often send their toughest cases to St. Jude, because St. Jude has the world’s best survival rates for some of the most aggressive childhood cancers.
At St. Jude, the care is awesome. I’m a radiology tech, so I know how unique the level of care is here. Anything they can do to make the kids feel comfortable, they’re doing.
In many ways, the staff cares for families in addition to kids. “The nurses go out of their way to make sure everything you need is being done,” Lee Ann said. “There are times that my husband is here with me and times he’s not. They’ll send a volunteer in to see if you need a coffee break, or an opportunity to think, or walk outside and cry not in front of your child.”
Brodey’s treatment plan includes radiation therapy and chemotherapy. It’s not easy, but Lee Ann said there is a certain peace of mind that comes from being at St. Jude. “You know you’re in the right place and they’re taking care of you. You’re not going to look back and wonder.”
At a time when it could be hard to just keep putting one foot in front of the other, Lee Ann is planning to run the half marathon again in December, this time as a St. Jude parent. Brodey’s little sister, Collins, will be the same age Brodey was when Lee Ann ran the first time.
For Brodey’s family, this race will be about a different kind of finish line. They hope Brodey will be close to finishing cancer treatment right around that time. Lee Ann will be running with a Heroes fundraising team of friends and family who has raised almost $10,000 for St. Jude to date.
“Now I know more about what actually goes on at St. Jude,” said Lee Ann. “Now I know the mission firsthand.” 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.