As a normal 10-year-old kid, cancer was not in Lindsey Wilkerson’s vocabulary except as something grown-ups got.
After constant sleepiness, frequent bruising and a decrease in her appetite necessitated several trips to the doctor, Lindsey’s mother took her to the hospital for answers. “My mom was determined to stay at the hospital until they found out what was wrong with me,” Lindsey says. A bone marrow aspiration showed acute lymphoblastic leukemia.
“It is still a very vivid memory. I was on the cusp of being a teenager, so I knew the gravity of it,” Lindsey says. “We went home, packed and drove all night straight to St. Jude as told by the doctors.”
Upon arrival, as many patients recall, the family was greeted by a St. Jude representative whose first words were, “Don’t worry. We will take care of your daughter.”
Lindsey’s mother was a bike-a-thon volunteer and, just weeks before the life-changing news, Lindsey had watched a St. Jude special on television.
“I remember thinking I could never be as strong as those kids,” she recalls.
During the two and a half years of chemotherapy—part of which Lindsey was able to receive in their home state of Missouri—the family moved to Little Rock because of her father’s job, which made the family closer to St. Jude.
“It was a comfort to be at St. Jude and to be taken care of so well,” Lindsey says. “I remember I struggled with losing my hair. It was falling out, and I couldn’t stop it. So, one of my chemo nurses created a beauty parlor for me. That day I had my nails painted, and I let her cut the rest of my hair. She went above and beyond for me. I was proud to be bald after that, and it all came from that one moment.”
Being a former patient, combined with the passing of a close friend at the hospital, brought Lindsey back to St. Jude. “I have a desire to fight for all those other kids, and I feel I’m honoring her [my friend] by working here.”
As a patient liaison assistant for ALSAC, Lindsey works one on one with patients and families.
“I wanted to do whatever I could to help the patients," she says. "I cherish the time I spend with them, and I am an example to them of how you can survive and lead a normal life.”
Married in 2003, Lindsey had two special people to her walk her down the aisle—her father and ALSAC CEO Richard Shadyac.
“I would not be here without St. Jude,” Lindsey says. “St. Jude was like my second family, so how appropriate to have Mr. Shadyac walk me down the aisle. I couldn’t imagine it any other way.”
Lindsey says St. Jude will always play a major role in her life.
When I see staff in the hospital who took care of me and now are my coworkers,
it is a little glimpse of how far I’ve come, and it re-dedicates me to St. Jude.