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St. Jude patient Gideon, at age 3, skin cancer

An unexpected diagnosis

It's hard to accept that your little boy has melanoma. But when Gideon's parents learned he did, St. Jude was there.

Gideon is a boy on the move. He loves other kids and cars and anything that goes fast. In 2013, it didn’t seem like energetic Gideon was seriously ill, and certainly not with something like cancer. The red spot about the size of a pencil eraser on his cheek was probably nothing but a wart, his parents reasoned. But when they had it removed, the doctor asked to biopsy it.

The biopsy came back positive for melanoma — a dangerous form of skin cancer. But the dermatologist they were referred to believed there had been an error. "She said it’s not melanoma, because 3-year-olds don’t get melanoma," remembered Gideon’s mom, Dee-Anna. "I was just worried; what if it is melanoma, and we’re missing it?"

We have a place to stay. We have meals here. We can concentrate fully on Gideon. And they allow you to do that.

Gideon's mother, Dee-Anna

Gideon’s pediatrician referred the family to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, over 2,000 miles across the country from their home. "It was where we wanted to be," says Dee-Anna.

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.

"I was comparing it to our experience with our older son, who has spina bifida. He’s been in the hospital 400 days out of his life. Even though that hospital was 20 minutes away from my house, this has been easier because of all that St. Jude does to make you comfortable. We have a place to stay. We have meals here. We can concentrate fully on Gideon. And they allow you to do that. They take away all those other concerns so that you can fully focus on your child."

At St. Jude, Gideon underwent testing to confirm his cancer had not spread, and he had surgery to remove a portion of his lower left cheek. During his checkups at St. Jude since that time, doctors have found and removed new tumors from his hand, toe and other areas. Gideon will have to be vigilant against cancer for the rest of his life.

But right now, the focus is on being 5 years old. Gideon will be starting school this fall and is already learning how to read.

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