Today, Reese is an active little girl who loves to dance. But for much of her first two years, she was sickly. While hospitalized for dehydration, Reese had a seizure. It was a blessing in disguise.
The seizure prompted an MRI, which revealed Reese suffered from a brain tumor called ependymoma. The tumor was removed at the local children’s hospital, but Reese needed additional treatment to enhance her chances of survival.
Reese’s parents were provided with a list of cancer centers that offered proton beam therapy, a form of radiation that can pinpoint dangerous tissue while preserving healthy tissue. Reese’s parents were in the process of arranging treatment at one of these centers when they were told there was an issue with their insurance.
That’s when I realized I wasn’t going to let my insurance determine the fate of my child.
"That’s when I realized I wasn’t going to let my insurance determine the fate of my child,” says Reese’s mom.
She reached out to an online support group for parents of children with ependymoma and asked for advice. Soon, she was talking to the coordinator of the brain tumor program at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. St. Jude has the largest pediatric brain tumor research program in the country and the world’s best survival rates.
Reese’s mom says, “When the coordinator explained the program here at St. Jude, and how that would help us, and we wouldn’t have to worry about any of the financial side of things, I didn’t even want to proceed with the other cancer center anymore. St. Jude had a program that would meet Reese’s needs, and they could help her. For me, that was my focus.”
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.
Reese and her mom left the rest of their large family back home to arrive at St. Jude last Father’s Day. It was hard to be far from home, but the staff and the amenities at St. Jude helped immensely. Now, following intravenous chemotherapy and proton beam therapy, Reese has been reunited with her family. She is finishing her treatment with oral chemotherapy administered at home.
“Reese loves to be the center of attention,” says her mom. “I think we’re going to have our hands full with her!”