Sonia never expected her family would need St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. But in the past two years, she has experienced St. Jude as both a mother and a grandmother, and she’s grateful St. Jude has been there for her family, every step of the way.
In 2015, Sonia’s daughter, 16-year-old Heather, was diagnosed with acute promyelocytic leukemia, an extremely rare form of blood cancer. At St. Jude, she underwent six months of chemotherapy. But a year later, the unthinkable happened: 2-year-old Pepe, the son of Sonia’s daughter Tiffany, was diagnosed with neuroblastoma, a type of cancerous tumor.
St. Jude patient Pepe with his aunt, Heather (left), his mother, Tiffany, and his grandmother, Sonia. Heather is also a St. Jude patient, who was found to have an extremely rare form of blood cancer in 2015.
“Just when we thought that everything had passed, my grandson was diagnosed,” said Sonia. “It was very painful.” But like the family had done with Heather, they turned to St. Jude for Pepe’s treatment and care.
Treatments invented at St. Jude have helped push the overall childhood cancer survival rate from 20% to more than 80% since it opened more than 50 years ago. St. Jude is working to drive the overall survival rate for childhood cancer to 90%, and we won’t stop until no child dies from cancer.
While at St. Jude, Pepe underwent chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant. “Being at St. Jude and learning about the survival rate was reassuring,” said Pepe’s mom, Tiffany. “I knew that my son was in the hands of great doctors and nurses who were going to help him get to where he needs to be.”
“At St. Jude, I only had to worry about my daughter and never worry about a bill,” said Sonia. “It allowed me to devote all of my attention to her.” Now, Sonia can rest easy knowing that Tiffany won’t ever worry about a bill for Pepe’s treatment, either.
Today, both Heather and Pepe, who are each finished with treatment, are thriving. They are finished with treatment and return to St. Jude for regular checkup appointments. Heather was able to complete her senior year of high school through the St. Jude School Program, and graduated last spring. Meanwhile, Pepe continues to be a happy boy who loves to play with his older brother and sister. “Even during treatment, Pepe always had a smile on his face,” said Tiffany. “He made us stronger.”
Being at St. Jude and learning about the survival rate was reassuring. I knew that my son was in the hands of great doctors and nurses who were going to help him get to where he needs to be.