MEMPHIS, TN - The St. Jude Dream Home Giveaway is one of the largest single-event fundraisers for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. This year, the program is building 30 homes, including one in Kern County.
It's the four little words that changed Michelle West's life forever.
“Your child has cancer," she said.
Seven-year-old Tyler was diagnosed in February 2013 with Leukemia and has cancer of the blood.
"Sometimes it's so overwhelming and my heart was in a thousand pieces at first, but you have to come to terms and you have a new reality," said West.
Tyler is in his first year of treatment at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. The facility located in Memphis, Tennessee has completely changed how the world treats children with cancer. Research and patient care is all done here under one roof.
"Most of these tumors happen in locations like the head and neck and the extremities, and in these children they are occurring when they are little and they have a lot of growth left and so if we go in and do these big surgeries and treat them with radiation, they don't grow the same and so they are left with a lot of cosmetic issues so we're desperate to find better medical cures where we can give medicines to treat these tumors to try to reduce these side effects," said Mark Hatley, pediatric oncologist with St. Jude.
Through the efforts of dedicated researchers, St. Jude has changed the survival for Acute Lymphoid Leukemia from 4 percent to 94 percent.
"We're able to come into the lab to figure out if we can find a new alkalis heel or something that will allow us to attack this tumor more specifically than what we are doing now," he said.
St. Jude is mostly funded through individual contributors, allowing families to focus on caring for their children instead of worrying about medical expenses.
"They put needles through me that doesn't hurt and they do a bunch of cool stuff," said 7-year-old Tyler West, a patient with St. Jude.
Danny Thomas founded the hospital; a statue of the late entertainer stands in the facility, bringing hope to many families around the world.
"I’m looking forward to the day where we can celebrate our “No Mo Chemo Party, looking forward to the day where we are free of cancer and living a life that we did before diagnosis," she said.
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