age 10, soft tissue cancer


Da’Maya had an earache and a swollen throat, and her mom, Sywanda, noticed she was uncharacteristically sleepy in church. But what seemed at first like a simple infection was actually a tumor in the left side of her daughter’s neck, pushing Da'Maya's airway to the side and growing into her face.

When a biopsy suggested cancer, Da’Maya was immediately referred to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. 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. 

Once I got here, I got to see what St. Jude is really all about. They’ve been taking care of us from day one. It’s such a relief.
Sywanda, Da'Maya's mom


Da'Maya laughs during arts and crafts with Child Life Specialist Jackie.

With an official diagnosis of rhabdomyosarcoma, a soft tissue cancer, Da’Maya would receive 42 weeks of intensive treatment, including chemotherapy and radiation therapy. But first, she had to undergo a tracheotomy surgery, because radiation would likely cause the tumor to swell before shrinking it, and this could compromise her ability to breathe.

Following the surgery, Da’Maya couldn’t really talk, but she was trying to tell her mother something. Sywanda gave her pen and paper, and Da’Maya wrote, “Jesus.” Then she pointed up and whispered, “He has me covered.” 

Da'Maya at church

Da'Maya wearing her Sunday best at a church service.

“From that day, I’ve been good,” said Sywanda. “Her faith and her belief in God has really helped us though this. When we first got here, I was a nervous wreck. Her personality keeps me going. She’s very strong.”

While at St. Jude, Da’Maya enjoyed activities, like painting with Child Life Specialists. And Sywanda, a teacher, was pleased her daughter could keep up with schoolwork thanks to the St. Jude School Program by Chili’s.

Da’Maya got her final dose of chemotherapy in June. Now 10 years old, she is cancer free and back at home. 


Help our families focus on their sick child, not medical bills.

When you donate monthly, your gift means families, like Da'Maya's, 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.

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