Life after St. Jude: Hoop Dreams

One retinoblastoma survivor celebrates a dramatic comeback.

By Elizabeth Jane Walker; Photo by April Brown, ABC Photography

Simon Stacy dribbles a basketball.
 

Autumn 2019 Table of Contents

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THE HIGH SCHOOL GYM reverberates with cheers as point guard Simon Stacy dribbles, pivots and shoots — electrifying the crowd with his speed and coordination.

What makes Simon different than any other basketball standout is his back story. It’s one of courage, determination and possibilities.

When Simon was 5 years old, his mom, Sharon Chancellor, noticed a white spot in his eye. At their local hospital, a physician ordered an MRI.

“A little while later, the doctor burst through the door,” Sharon recalls. “He and his nurse were crying.”

Retinoblastoma, a malignant eye cancer, had already caused blindness in Simon’s right eye. Soon, he and his mom were racing toward St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

To prevent the disease from spreading, St. Jude surgeon Matthew Wilson, MD, removed the affected eye. Aggressive chemotherapy and 35 intensive radiation treatments followed.

Sharon, a single mom, had four other children at home. Simon’s grandparents, church groups, schools and neighbors rallied to help, providing resources and caregivers. When Simon missed his kindergarten graduation, teachers placed a single rose in his chair, a poignant symbol of support.

“His grandparents and the people in our town completely took care of my kids,” Sharon says.

Meanwhile, St. Jude oncologist Ibrahim Qaddoumi, MD, and his colleagues showed care and concern for both Simon and his mom.

“They helped me as much as they helped my son,” Sharon admits.

 
 

When Simon returns for appointments in the St. Jude After Completion of Therapy Clinic, he leans down to hug clinicians who used to tower over him.

 
 

Simon eventually returned home, where he demonstrated prowess on the gridiron, baseball diamond and basketball court. Recently, his high school basketball coach began to discuss the possibility of Simon playing college ball. Today, the high school senior spends up to four hours a day running and weightlifting before hitting the court.

When Simon returns for appointments in the St. Jude After Completion of Therapy Clinic, he leans down to hug clinicians who used to tower over him.

“Basketball is really fun,” Simon tells them. “There’s the joy of playing it and how it makes me feel. There’s the friendship that I have with my teammates.

“And then there’s the surprise on the faces of people who find out I’ve only got one eye and yet I’m playing as well as I am,” he says with a chuckle. “I like that.”

 
 

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