In 1994, after finishing my senior year of high school, I felt pain and a lump in my neck that I assumed was a pulled muscle. The pain persisted all summer, ending in a diagnosis of mononucleosis.
After rounds of prescription steroids, the lump persisted. One Friday night early into my freshman year of college, I chose to stay in instead of attending a fraternity party. The next morning, I felt worse. My best friend said, “We’re going to the ER.” I was so scared that he had to pick me up kicking and screaming.
It was a good thing he did—I would’ve died within three days if he hadn’t. Tests revealed I had high-risk T cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia, which at the time had only a 73% survival rate.
While trying to attend college, I was sick from the chemotherapy and radiation. At the time, I couldn’t appreciate St. Jude because I was angry about missing out on my friends and college life.
I came to realize, though, that to make it through, I’d need faith in God, a sense of humor and trust in St. Jude. Without Danny Thomas — a man I never met — and his hospital, I would not be here now.
St. Jude continually researches what does and doesn’t work. Having scientists down the hall from patients means that, as a patient, you get the immediate benefits of the latest, greatest results of research and clinical care. That is also why I participate in the St. Jude LIFE long-term follow-up study. It’s one way I can help patients now and those in the future.
Today, I have a wife, an 11-year-old son, a home and a job. I still believe laughter is an important part of life. I think when you laugh so hard that you can’t breathe, you add years to your life.
If you’re a parent or a childhood cancer patient or survivor, look at the things that make you laugh. If you’re a faithful person, take time to thank God for the things you have. Don’t worry about what you’re missing out on. A positive outlook is important!
From Promise, Spring 2021