As Zabdi plays his guitar, one can notice a surgical scar on his right hand, a reminder of the cancer that started his journey to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. But Zabdi, at 15 years old, only smiles and says he’s doing just fine.
“I still can’t make a fist,” he said, “but I’ve been having physical therapy, so eventually my hand will go back to normal.”
Zabdi doesn’t give the impression that he would ever make a fist. It seems he would rather use his hands for much greater purposes – to play his favorite regional Mexican music, and even help others with his knowledge of technology and computers.
“I like knowing stuff to help other people,” he said.
Zabdi’s cancer story began after he broke his hand in a go-kart accident. After going through hand surgery, everything returned to normal. Then after a month, a small, barely noticeable bump appeared on his right hand. After it started growing, Zabdi had an MRI and a biopsy that revealed he had rhabdomyosarcoma, a cancerous tumor.
It was only a matter of time until he was referred and was on his way to St. Jude.
“It’s a hard experience and it’s scary,” Zabdi said. “But I always try to look at the positive side of things.”
Upon arriving at St. Jude, Zabdi and his mom felt reassured knowing that the survival rate for rhabdomyosarcoma, Zabdi’s specific type of cancer, was more than 70% for children whose disease has not spread.
Zabdi said his experience with cancer, and with St. Jude, has made him “a better person … I like to think, a more hopeful person.”
He’s had the opportunity to make friends and meet celebrities – from Chadwick Boseman, the Black Panther movie star to U.S. soccer player Tim Howard to regional Mexican singer Luis Coronel.
“St. Jude to me is a door to the happiness,” said Gabriela, Zabdi’s mom. “Because we feel OK in here. With everything that is going wrong there is always a happy moment. St. Jude to me is like God, because with God we always have hope, faith. And that’s how we feel in here.”
Today, Zabdi shares in his mom’s joy by continuing to play the guitar for others to hear.
“When I play music, I feel happy. I feel like I’m doing something that can make other people happy.”
This Mother's Day, our St. Jude families depend on supporters like you
When you support St. Jude, families, like Zabdi'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.
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