You may have read about a remarkable patient of ours named Sierra. She combined her gift for art with her gratitude for St. Jude, selling handmade origami crane earrings — Cranes for Cures, she calls them — and donating all the profits to the place that saved her life.
Last month, she was back on campus for a checkup — and to present a check for $7,050 to St. Jude.
It was a touching reminder that the kids who inspire us with their courage and strength during treatment can continue to inspire us with their giving hearts and empathy as they grow up and make their way in the world.
That’s Sierra, diagnosed at 15 with medulloblastoma, a brain tumor. She arrived at St. Jude about a week after surgery, then endured 30 rounds of radiation therapy, without sedation, followed by seven months of chemotherapy — and such side effects as nerve and jaw pain.
Back home after treatment, it would have been perfectly understandable if she wanted to put cancer — and St. Jude — in the past. After all, she was an active teenager — an ice skater, a swimmer, a rock climber — whose life had been cruelly interrupted. Now it was time to live again.
But we’ve seen it time and time again, and we see it now in Sierra — the compassionate soul, the giving spirit, the sense of being part of something larger than herself.
The young people of St. Jude have so much to teach us, as adults. Wise beyond their years and kind beyond words, they have so much to offer the world.
In a social media post last month, Sierra talked about all the things for which she’s thankful — family, friends, St. Jude, her physical therapists, her ice skating coaches …
Then she wrote:
“I know 2020 is weird, but I’ll take this over chemotherapy any time. I would like to be able to hug people again, but for now I am just thankful to be here.”
This is why Danny Thomas' words still drive us today. Because his belief that no child should die in the dawn of life wasn’t just about saving a young life. It was about making a lifetime possible.
When Sierra’s brain tumor was first discovered, her father, Tim, feared the worst. “She’s an amazing girl, and I just felt that the world was going to miss out on her,” he said, “because she wasn’t going to live to see her 16th birthday.”
Now she’s a high school senior, this athletic, artistic and academically minded girl — did I mention her 33 score on the ACT, putting her in the top 2 percent nationally? — who’s been busy applying to colleges. And Tim is back to wondering how his daughter might “change the world.”
So are we, Dad. So are we.