St. Jude patient Sunny, age 12, Burkitt lymphoma

Sunny is an ace

This St. Jude patient is one tough tennis player.

St. Jude patient Sunny with ALSAC/St. Jude president and CEO, Rick Shadyac

St. Jude patient Sunny with Rick Shadyac, ALSAC/St. Jude president and CEO.

St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital is the official charity of the Memphis Open presented by Service Master. St. Jude patient Sunny’s tennis-themed art has been incorporated into the design of the Memphis Open t-shirts this year. It makes sense that Sunny’s artwork is about tennis — she’s a star tennis player in the making.

Sunny has been playing tennis since she was 5 years old. In 2014, she was ranked eighth in the state of Mississippi for players under 10 years old. That summer, Sunny developed a knot on her neck. Since the knot didn’t hurt and wasn’t affecting her in any way, Sunny continued on with her summer activities: She went to tennis camp for a week and then played in a tennis tournament, which she won. But in July, the knot started to get bigger and doctors ordered a biopsy of it. The results revealed Sunny suffered from Burkitt lymphoma, a type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

Sunny’s family was familiar with St. Jude, and that’s where they turned for her treatment and care. Treatments invented at St. Jude have helped push the overall childhood cancer survival rate from 20 percent to 80 percent since it opened in 1962.

At St. Jude, Sunny’s treatment included four rounds of chemotherapy. Her treatment, at times, was tough, but Sunny knew how to face a tough competitor. About tennis, she said, “You have to stay positive and not give up.” The same could be said for how she approached her battle with cancer.

Today, Sunny is out of treatment and visits St. Jude monthly. She’s an outgoing, high-spirited seventh grader. Sunny is also back to playing tennis. She takes private lessons and hopes to begin tournament play this spring and summer. “We call her Sunshine, because she’s like a ray of light, always smiling,” Sunny’s mom said. “We’re thankful for St. Jude. They gave us hope, comfort, love and support.”

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