Cassidy is the baby of the family, and all admit they catered to her even before she got sick.
“According to her, she will do what she wants,” observes her oldest sister, Claire, with something less than 100 percent approval. Claire is the “bossy” one within the family dynamic. “She likes to take charge of everyone and tell them what to do,” says their mom, Barbara. The middle girl, Jesse, “is my little mother hen, you know, she's taking care of everybody.”
Jesse helps her mom remember Cassidy’s medicine, and likes St. Jude because it’s making her sister better.
In September 2018, there was a lot going on for this family of five. The movers were at their house, carrying out all their stuff for transfer to their new home a state away. And Cassidy hadn’t been responding to the antibiotics for her upper respiratory infection. Her mom decided to run her back to the pediatrician, who ran labs. Soon after, they went to their local children’s hospital. “From there,” said Barbara, “we knew we wanted to come to St. Jude.”
Cassidy has acute lymphoblastic leukemia, a type of blood cancer. Fortunately, the groundbreaking development of combination therapy for children with this disease increased the survival rate from 4% when St. Jude opened to 94% today. In addition, the innovative research at St. Jude has led to a dramatic increase in survival rates for children with many other major forms of cancer.
Barbara said, “We're always happy to do whatever we can to help further the research because if people before us hadn't participated, it wouldn't be where it is today. We're thankful for the people who came before us who were of the same mindset. If one kid is saved, you know, you can save thousands from that. Now they have it down to a tee – there's no guesswork.”
Cassidy is undergoing two-and-a-half years of chemotherapy on the St. Jude Total 17 protocol, established for newly diagnosed patients with acute lymphoblastic leukemia and lymphoma. Before the chemotherapy temporarily caused her hair loss, she was blond like her sisters. But, “surprisingly, that was the easiest part,” says their mom. “She was almost happy because, ‘Oh, you don't have to brush my hair every day.’”
All three girls are outgoing, vivacious, tight-knit and loving. When Claire and Jesse don’t have to be in school, they come with Cassidy to her appointments to help pass the time doing crafts, giggling, fighting – sister stuff.
“They take good care of each other,” says their mom. “It plays a big part in the healing process.”
And St. Jude takes good care of families. Like all families, Cassidy’s will 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.
“It's a tremendous help,” said Barbara. “There's no way that we could afford to pay all of our copays and back and forth with just one income, and there's no way that I can work because you have to be here. A lot of people don't realize the extent of ‘you don't get a bill.’ It's so much more than you don't get a bill. All the way around, St. Jude is helping, making sure we're okay and providing us with support.”
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