Life after Treatment:
A Step Forward

A long-term cancer survivor shares her secrets to overcoming life’s challenges.

By Candice Stevens; Photo by Ann-Margaret Hedges

Life can be hard. It’s not always positive and lovely. But you already know that, right? Allow me to share a secret: If you can find the good in the challenges that come your way, it’s not a setback — it’s a step toward where you’re supposed to be.

When I was 15 months old, a crying toddler with a swollen stomach, the pediatrician repeatedly discounted my parents’ concerns. He said they needed to let me “cry it out.” Finally, my mom demanded more tests.

Sure enough, I had a mass in my abdomen, which had already spread to my lymph nodes. I had less than 50 percent chance of survival. Would you call that a setback?

Candice Stevens

Success story

Candice Stevens was 15 months old when she arrived at St. Jude. Today, she’s using her talents and skills to help other children cope with challenges they face.

That same night I was flown to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. After surgery, 36 rounds of chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant, I went into remission — a giant leap forward.

Potential setback No. 2 occurred when I lost my hearing from the treatment that had saved my life. But thanks to my hearing aids and speech therapy, I’m now able to enjoy music — especially country music — and even sing.

Throughout school, I had to work harder than many other students, but I persevered. Last year, I graduated from college with a degree in sociology. Today I’m in graduate school to be a school counselor. That’s two steps closer to my goal of having a career that will help people.

Everyone doesn’t have cancer, but everybody has their own struggles. Middle school is a pivotal time when kids may need extra support. Because of my experiences, I feel that’s the route I’m supposed to take.

Meanwhile, I’m grateful for my family and for St. Jude. I’m thankful that I’m able to take part in the St. Jude LIFE study for long-term survivors. What doctors learn from my experiences may help other children with cancer.

When I visit St. Jude, I look around and think, ‘Why did I make it? Why me?’ I don’t know. But I definitely believe my experiences have led me to where God wants me today: moving forward. 

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