St. Jude pioneered a combination of chemotherapy, radiation and surgery to treat childhood cancers.
On Average, 5,400 active patients visit the hospital each year, most of whom are treated on an outpatient basis.
St. Jude is the only pediatric cancer research center where families never pay for treatment not covered by insurance. No child is ever denied treatment because of the family’s inability to pay.
St. Jude has increased the survival rate of the most common form of childhood cancer, ALL, from 4 percent when the hospital opened to 85 percent today.
Diagnosis: Camryn was found to suffer from Wilms tumor in January 2011.
Camryn is dressed in a purple shirt with a matching purple bow in her hair. In each hand, she holds a purple and white pom pom. An energetic little girl whose family has nicknamed her Diva, she waits on the sidelines with the other little cheerleaders, their energy palpable. When the team they're rooting for, the Tomcats, scores on the field, Camryn shakes the pom poms wildly and jumps up and down, chanting loudly for her team.
Two years ago, when Camryn was found to suffer from Wilms tumor, a type of kidney cancer, her parents worried their little girl, so full of life, might never feel good again.
In January 2011, Camryn woke up one morning screaming and clutching her side. Her parents thought she had appendicitis and rushed her to the emergency room. The doctors thought it was appendicitis, too, but a CT scan soon revealed that there were several tumors on Camryn's right kidney and one large tumor on her left kidney.
Camryn's family was quickly sent to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, where her treatment included chemotherapy, surgery to remove the tumors and radiation. Throughout Camryn's fight with cancer, doctors worked to keep her kidneys functioning so that she wouldn’t need dialysis.
In the beginning, Camryn was scared, but St. Jude helped her with that. "Every time we tried to explain cancer to Camryn, I was about to cry," said Camryn's mom. "So the Child Life specialist came in, and she explained everything to Camryn so that she could understand it."
When people asked Camryn why she didn't have hair, she told them that it was because of the medicine that "gets the bad stuff out of my belly."
Camryn's mother is an elementary school teacher, and her father is a 4-H instructor getting his master’s degree in agriculture education. They have good insurance, but the family was relieved that whatever insurance didn't cover, St. Jude did. "I've heard so many times that people have had to declare bankruptcy or lost their homes when a family member gets sick, but St. Jude takes care of its families," Camryn’s mom said.
Camryn is now done with treatment and visits St. Jude for regular checkups. She loves cheering for the Tomcats, dancing and singing. Camryn, who is in first grade, has even started to write her own songs. When she grows up, Camryn wants to be a dance teacher.
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Diagnosis: Aidan was found to suffer from pilocytic astrocytoma in December 2010
Aidan is a blur of motion. One moment he’s standing at the giant chalkboard in his playroom, drawing circles and squares with chalk. The next minute he’s crouched down in front of his train table, lining up train cars. And then he’s out the backdoor with his older brother, racing toward the swing set.
Aidan’s parents delight in their youngest son’s zest for life. For a while, they worried about what his future might hold.
In early 2010, Aidan seemed to stop developing as quickly as his siblings. His parents had difficulty understanding him and his balance was off. That June, Aidan was found to suffer from neurofibromatosis, a disorder that causes tumors to grow on the nerves.
Aidan’s parents barely had time to process that news when, six months later, scans revealed a tumor growing in Aidan’s right optic nerve. He was immediately sent to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, where further tests revealed a second tumor in Aidan’s left optic nerve. The tumors were identified as pilocytic astrocytomas.
At St. Jude, Aidan underwent chemotherapy for 18 months. Because of the location of the tumors, they are inoperable. Doctors know they will begin to grow eventually, and when they do, Aidan will again undergo chemotherapy. “His cancer will never go into remission,” said Aidan’s mother. “He’ll have chemotherapy on and off for the rest of his life.”
Despite this daunting outlook, Aidan’s family has bright hopes for his future. “He’s a happy child, he’s in school and doing well,” said Aidan’s mom. “With everything he’s been through, he’s taught us to just be happy every day.”
Aidan’s parents are grateful for the people who help support St. Jude. “We never have to worry about a bill. When you have a child who is going to have a lifetime of treatment, this means so much,” Aidan’s mom said.
Aidan returns to St. Jude for regular checkups. He loves to see his doctors and nurses, and he especially loves playing with the trains in the playrooms.