A Partner in Hope Visits St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital For the First Time – A Life Changing Experience
Hello, I’m Ashley Sollars – the Digital Managing Editor for your local radio stations (WBKR, WOMI, WKDQ, WJLT, KISS, 103GBF and Newstalk 1280). Basically, I oversee all the radio station websites. I get to do a lot of cool things with my job but I never thought my life would be changed from a ‘work trip.’
You hear commercials on television that try to convince you that a mascara or a book will change your life. I’m here to tell you that those things may impact your life but becoming a Partner in Hope will CHANGE YOUR LIFE.
Okay, I know I’m not a DJ and you’ve probably never even heard of me but I might just be someone who is just like you. I have been a Partner in Hope for a long time – I saw a tear-jerking commercial a few years ago and called in. Money came out of my account and I felt good about it. Fast forward to January 18th, 2013 – my birthday.
Seven of my male counterpart co-workers and I loaded into a van that was southbound to Memphis, TN, for a St. Jude Country Cares conference. The ride down was so fun but I just knew I was going to spend the entire time crying when we got there. Amazingly enough, I only teared up a couple of times and it was because we watched videos of kids getting No Mo Chemo parties and heard stories from parents about how St. Jude saved their children when other hospitals told them to ‘go home and enjoy their time left.’
As a new parent, I couldn’t have picked a better time to go. Not only did a need a break from my sweet child (who was 5-months-old), but it all made me appreciate her and our time at Riley Children’s Hospital even more. She was diagnosed with PKU – a rare genetic disorder in which she has a mutated gene. The gene is responsible for creating an enzyme that processes an amino acid in protein but her gene is warped. She may have to be a vegan her whole life and eat specialty foods (mostly grains) that have preprocessed protein. It’s a lifelong diet commitment. If she doesn’t follow diet, she will suffer brain damage and physical deformities. I remember when we got the diagnoses, all we heard was brain damage… my child would not be able to do things other kids couldn’t do. If she had this strict diet, no birthday cake, no Thanksgiving turkey, no Halloween candy, etc. I was devastated. We did have appointments at Riley and I remember her doctor saying to us, “I went into Genetics because it’s the happiest office at Riley – our cases are 100% treatable.” That was such a relief to me.
Fast-forward to St. Jude. Are there any 100% guaranteed curable cancers that are treated at St. Jude? I doubt it – some are 95% but I can’t imagine any doctor would tell you a cancer is 100% curable. I remembered the fear I felt for Ava and in the seminar we learned that Leukemia is a mutated gene. PKU an inherited mutation; Leukemia mutates after conception. One mutation… one one one. It kept going over in my mind. ONE MINISCULE MUTATION. I have been a supporter of St. Jude ever since I started wanting to have a child and saw the impact they had but I couldn’t imagine how much it would someday impact my life.
Anyway, I do support the Riley – the children’s hospital that has given us the peace of mind that Ava’s condition is treatable and they will work with us and her throughout her entire lifetime to manage it but I also think about the parents who receive catastrophic news that their child has a devastating disease. I know Ava isn’t exempt from another gene mutation and I feel blessed that there is somewhere like St. Jude. I felt that sinking feeling… I know what those parents go through. I can’t imagine that scary journey but you keep hearing over and over how St. Jude lessens the stress and pain for the entire family.
So, I will be giving my entire heart to this upcoming radiothon. I have a better understanding of how important it is. St. Jude also shares all their findings with the medical community so that others with cancer or catastrophic diseases may benefit from their findings. Even if you can’t relate to a child, think of someone you know who has been touched by cancer and you have a reason to give your whole heart to the cancer research St. Jude provides. It’s an amazing, wonderful, beautiful place and I hope you too can someday visit the place that changes lives.