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Da'Maya's strong and persistent faith

da-maya smiling with her hands on her head

St. Jude patient Da'Maya in 2016


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.

Da'Maya at her church

Da'Maya at her church


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

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.

Da'Maya's mom, Sywanda, said at the time


Families, like Da'Maya's, will never receive a bill from St. Jude for treatment, travel, housing or food.

smyrna with her mom and dad

With an official diagnosis of rhabdomyosarcoma, a soft tissue cancer, Da’Maya received 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.

  1. lea with her dad

    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 laughs during arts and crafts with Child Life Specialist Jackie.

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

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

    Da'Maya's mom, Sywanda, said at the time

    da'maya at her 5th grade graduation

    Da'Maya at her 5th-grade graduation

    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.


Editor's Note: We regret to inform you that Da'Maya passed away in March 2021

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