Smyrna is an outgoing, compassionate teen. “Her nature is to help,” said her mom, Akhila. “She always has a smiling face, and she’s always friendly.”
Smyrna is artistic, too. She loves to paint. But art isn’t the only thing she’s passionate about. “I love entertaining,” she said. “Cooking for friends and family. And I like science. And playing piano. And ice skating.” Smyrna paused before continuing. “And I love makeup and doing my hair and my nails, too.”
Smyrna isn’t one to slow down, not even in the midst of treatment for medulloblastoma, a type of brain cancer.
In 2018, Smyrna began to experience headaches and nausea, at first once a week, then nearly every day. Initially, a neurologist thought Smyrna was suffering from migraines, but even medication didn’t help relieve her discomfort.
“Then her legs became like jelly,” Akhila said. “We went to the emergency room, and she had an MRI.”
The results were devastating: Smyrna had a mass on her brain. Her family was stunned.
“It’s impossible to digest this kind of news,” said Akhila. After Smyrna underwent surgery to remove the tumor, her family turned to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital for her continuing care.
“When we first arrived, St. Jude was like a huge ocean,” Akhila said. “There were so many buildings. There was the cafeteria over here, one clinic here, another there. But the more we talked to Smyrna’s doctor, the more comfortable we felt. St. Jude might be far away from home, but it’s still our home.”
Smyrna’s treatment will include radiation therapy and chemotherapy.
Families, like Smyrna's, 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.
Here, I don’t have to worry about anything, only about Smyrna. We have a place to stay and families we’ve become friends with. We miss home, but we’re grateful and thankful for St. Jude.