As a 13-year-old boy in 1962, my life revolved around baseball and basketball. I dreamed my legacy would be to hit a game-winning home run in the World Series or a buzzer-beater in the championship game. So when I started to feel weak and run a fever, my parents and I were shocked to learn I had cancer. Suddenly, I was staring death in the face.
At our local hospital, they advised my family to prepare for the worst. Then my parents found out about a new hospital in Memphis, Tennessee.
Ultimately, my legacy was not to be a sports hero. My legacy was to be patient No. 17 at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
There, we found something we didn’t have before: hope. St. Jude wrapped its arms around me, and they never let go. The day I arrived, they literally carried me through the front doors. When I left, I walked out on my own.
In 2007, I was the first survivor to enroll in a long-term follow-up study called St. Jude LIFE. I had often wondered if my health issues were related to my cancer treatment. I thought this study might help me answer that question. But my involvement might also help other children. If there’s anything I could do to prevent some mom or dad from having to say goodbye to their child, I stood ready to do it.
Ten years later, St. Jude LIFE has brought thousands of childhood cancer survivors to campus for regular health screenings. As a result, scientists are making exciting discoveries about the long- term effects of cancer and its treatment.
I’ve lived a full and productive life. I married my high school sweetheart, and we’ve got two wonderful kids and four outstanding grandchildren. My hope and prayer would be that every child at St. Jude would someday be able to do what I’ve been able to do— to explain, more than 55 years later, how St. Jude helped them when it seemed there was no hope at all.
After a 37-year career with the Arkansas State Police, Dwight Tosh was elected to the Arkansas House of Representatives, where he serves today.
From Promise, Winter 2018