In April 2016, the day Shon had worked so hard for finally arrived. After years of training on the football field, refining his game, he was about to take part in the National Football League (NFL) draft.
Rather than attend the draft in person, though, Shon and his family instead traveled to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital for his watch party.
St. Jude, after all, had saved his life and kept his NFL hopes alive.
In February 2010, Shon’s life was planned out: high-school graduation, college, the NFL draft. He had just signed to play football at Auburn University on a full scholarship.
He was Mississippi’s top ranked high school football player. He was ranked 22nd in the nation and ranked third in his position as an offensive lineman.
But in only a month’s time, Shon’s life changed when he learned he had acute lymphoblastic leukemia, a type of blood cancer. At St. Jude, Shon underwent two-and-a-half years of chemotherapy.
During his treatment, Shon’s immune system was compromised, so he couldn’t participate in group practices, but he worked with the physical therapy staff at St. Jude to keep his agility and strength up.
St. Jude has increased the survival rates for Shon's type of cancer, acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), from 4% before opening in 1962 to 94% today.
Once Shon finished treatment, he returned to the football field, playing for Auburn as he originally planned.
He received an undergraduate degree in public administration and earned a master’s degree in elementary education in December 2015.
But even apart from the lifesaving treatment Shon received at St. Jude, the hospital continues to hold a special place in his heart. There was no other place he wanted to be when the Cleveland Browns, during the 76th pick of the NFL draft, called his name.
He celebrated the news at St. Jude, surrounded by his family, friends and members of his care team.
It meant the world to our family to celebrate Shon's special evening at St. Jude because it was so symbolic of Shon's journey. There was no other place we would've wanted to be for this special occasion. It meant so much to me as a mom for other patients and their families to see there is always hope.
Shon has now transitioned to the St. Jude After Completion of Therapy clinic, which is the largest long-term follow-up clinic for childhood cancer patients in the United States.