EDITOR’S NOTE: The fourth anniversary Gala for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, is actuality captivated this year at the Waterside Marriott on March 12 at 7 p.m.
Kara DeGraff is a affiliate of the committee. Actuality is her story.
About six months ago, I got a tattoo. Four numbers on my appropriate arena finger. I bethink sitting in the artist’s armchair aback it came time for him to appearance me the brand adaptation of my alleged rendition.
Just afore he laid the ink bottomward on my finger, I saw he was activity to put the numbers on adverse out. I capital the numbers to face in. To face me.
“I’ve done so abounding arena tattoos, but I’ve never done one adverse in,” he said. “This boom is aloof for you, isn’t it?”
Now until that moment, it had never alike occurred to me to acquire my numbers adverse out. Why would I do that?
“Yes, this boom is for me,” I said. “Just me.”
I went on to explain to the artisan the claimed acceptation the numbers nine, nine, five, and seven authority for me.
Those numbers ascertain me. I am actuality because of those numbers. I am who I am because of those numbers. They admonish me breadth I appear from, what I can do, what I believe, and best importantly, who I acquire to acknowledge for the activity I acquire been so adored to live.
Those numbers accomplish up my St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital medical almanac number: 9957. I am a St. Jude patient. Their 9,957th patient, to be exact.
When I was 6 years old, I complained to my parents about aback pain. I awash my aback several times arena aberrate during recess, jumping into the basin during bathe acquaint and benumbed on a friend’s boat. After abounding tests and several altered doctor appointments, my parents didn’t apperceive why I was still in affliction and accepting sicker every day. Answers came the day accepted claret assignment was ordered afore I was appointed for a CAT browse at my bounded hospital. After attractive at my claret assignment results, my CAT browse was canceled and an oncologist was alleged in to explain to my parents that their babe had leukemia.
The abutting day my parents and I collection to Memphis, Tennessee, breadth I was accepted as a St. Jude patient. I watched the fireworks that Fourth of July from my sixth-floor hospital room. My analysis was astute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). The aback affliction I acquainted above-mentioned to my analysis angry out to be a bearcat that aeroembolism as a aftereffect of leukemia beef in my cartilage bottom abrasion my bones.
In 1986, the year of my diagnosis, St. Jude was advertisement a 64 percent absolution rate. Aloof 14 years earlier, the absolution amount was 50 percent. St. Jude advisers and doctors were alive accustomed to advance my adventitious of survival.
I was in the appropriate abode and was accepting the best affliction accessible for adolescence leukemia.
Since then, our ancestors has had abounding conversations about those aboriginal St. Jude days. My parents were afflicted at my analysis and the advice that followed.
Fear fabricated it difficult to appreciate aggregate the doctors told them. At that aboriginal affair with my Memphis doctors, they were told we would never be answerable for my care. Cost was the aftermost affair on my parents’ minds, but after that chat sank in. St. Jude would awning the insurmountable amount of my treatment.
That account accustomed my parents to focus all of their activity on me and what I needed. Mom consistently said that if adulation would accomplish me better, we had that covered. She said this was activity to booty adulation and more. The added came from St. Jude.
My analysis included two and a bisected years of account chemotherapy, six weeks of circadian radiation and accident my beard three times. I was able to acquire best of my chemo 45 account abroad from my adolescence home at the St. Jude Midwest Affiliate in Peoria, Illinois. The Midwest Affiliate is a priceless allotment of my story. Without it, I would acquire had to biking account from axial Illinois to Memphis for my medicines. Actuality abutting to home, I was able to abide in my aforementioned chic at school, missing basal canicule and lessons. Best importantly, my ancestors was able to be calm added than we were apart.
During an aberant time of my life, actuality able to hunt my little brother with a Barbie baby — and acquire my earlier brother again hunt me aback with a lightsaber, all while antic a cue brawl head, brought my apple aback to accustomed for awhile. I bare that. Actuality so accurate by my ancestors was a key to my recovery.
My mom and I still allocution about our alley trips to Peoria for my chemo. In animosity of breadth that alley concluded anniversary week, some of my fondest adolescence memories are captivated up in Peoria. St. Jude helped accomplish that appear for my family.
I acquire been in absolution aback commutual my chemotherapy in December 1988. Aback then, account check-up trips to Memphis progressed to anniversary check-ups. Following college, I became a St. Jude LIFE patient, St. Jude’s adaptation of alumni status.
I am arrive aback to the now 60-acre campus every few years to participate in abiding survivor studies. I consistently acquire their allurement to return. By adage yes I feel I can, in some baby way, acknowledge St. Jude for all they did to save my life. I additionally feel a able affiliation to the kids that are ailing today. I apperceive those kids. If I can be a allotment of allowance advance the analysis plan for St. Jude kids today, assurance me up. Alike with the ALL absolution amount at 94 percent today, St. Jude is still alive endlessly to abate abiding ancillary furnishings while befitting absolution ante high.
I am now affiliated with two accouchement and St. Jude is still demography affliction of me. Aback I’m on campus for survivor abstraction testing, St. Jude schedules me for an EKG because I had chemo drugs that can affect my heart. They additionally agenda me a DEXA browse because the radiation I accustomed can affect my cartilage density. I see an eye doctor to analysis on the abiding ancillary furnishings of addition biologic on my eyes. I acquire consistently acquainted that any ancillary aftereffect is account my actuality able to get a driver’s license, go to college, get stamps in my passport, airing bottomward the alley and be the mom of two adored gifts.
As an adult, and as a mom, I now absolutely accept that St. Jude cares aloof as abundant about me as an developed survivor as they did aback I was a 7-year-old analysis patient.
Two years ago, my ancestors confused to Tampa from the Chicago area. Aback then, our son has angry 7, a anniversary that was cogent to me in a altered way than his added birthdays.
My advantageous accouchement abide to affect me to advice St. Jude kids. I was captivated to ascertain St. Jude’s spirit advancing in the Tampa breadth with our bounded fundraising office. I acquire enjoyed accepting to apperceive breadth associates of the St. Jude association by volunteering with this office.
This July will be 30 years aback my diagnosis. As I watch my babe authority her aboriginal sparkler and accept to my son bark at the sky’s colors, I will be cerebration about a little babe watching fireworks from her hospital room. It is my achievement that St. Jude gives her the adventitious to abound up and get a boom that is as allusive to her as abundance is to me.
Tickets are still accessible for the accident at www .stjude.org/tampadinner.
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