St. Jude family finds balance through yoga

Amris has had a lot of practice fighting cancer. Now she has a yoga practice too, with St. Jude supporter and yogi Adriene Mishler.

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It was 2012, and Amris’ parents, Ross and Marlee, were taking their baby to the beach for the Fourth of July. On the way out of town, they stopped for what they expected to be a routine errand: her 2-year-old wellness checkup.

The following night they were not at the beach. They were learning their little girl had a kiwi-sized tumor on her cerebellum. Surgeons removed part of it, but the prognosis was grim.

“We met with the oncologist and his outlook was, 'Go home and take pictures and enjoy your time with Amris, because what we're dealing with is very aggressive,'” Ross said in 2013. “We knew then we were in for a long fight.”

Amris’ parents then found St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, and thanks to treatment received at St. Jude, Amris returned home and was cancer-free for five years. But in 2018, scans during a checkup at St. Jude showed a spot. The long fight was renewed; Amris began further treatment at St. Jude for a recurrence of ATRT (atypical teratoid rhabdoid tumor).


Since then, her mom has added another coping strategy: yoga. She does her daily practice online with international yoga instructor Adriene Mishler, who recently became a supporter of St. Jude

“Every morning I do a yoga session with her. It’s made me feel so much better just overall and dealing with stress and anxiety,” said Marlee. “One of Adriene’s recent themes was courage, which I thought was so appropriate for this time – not only for me, having a daughter at St. Jude, but for everyone in the world today.”

Adriene, best known for her Yoga with Adriene series on YouTube, recently embarked on a long-term partnership with St. Jude, beginning with a special livestream in June. Beginner and experienced yogis everywhere virtually practiced on the International Day of Yoga, alongside Adriene, who dedicated the day's practice to fundraising and awareness for the kids of St. Jude. Marlee and Amris joined the celebration live from home.

Amris turned 10 years old this year – a milestone that coincided with completing her 10th round of chemo. Now a big sister, she’s funny and spunky and loves dancing and music – and yoga, especially tree poses, and any pose where she can stand on one foot.

“We can tell a big difference with her balance,” said Marlee. “She has a yoga mat that matches mine and a little yoga outfit she puts on. She just thinks she’s a big girl when we’re doing yoga!”

Editor’s note: Amris passed away in March 2021.