MEMPHIS, Tennessee (WMC) – This year marks the 60th anniversary of the opening of its doors at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Since 1962, treatments developed at St. Jude have helped increase the survival rate for childhood cancer from 20% to 80%.
Unfortunately, despite this progress, one in five children diagnosed with cancer in this country will not survive. In this report sponsored by St. Jude, Joy Redmond shares Maya’s story.
“Maya was funny, brave, full of life, she loved doing ballet, she loved horse riding.”
And though the cancer took her hair out, it couldn’t take away Maya’s infectious smile or her sassy sense of fashion, which often featured red glasses. But when she was 8, Maya’s mother Bonnie says her normal childhood life was turned upside down.
“She started getting a bloody nose, we took her to the pediatrician, and he just attributed it to allergies and too much activity, so we kind of backed off on the activities,” said Maya’s mother. “But she started falling asleep in class at school and the teachers started saying they were a little worried so we took her back to the pediatrician and I said, look, you have to do a blood test.”
Maya was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia, one of the most difficult blood cancers to treat, and her only chance of recovery would be a bone marrow transplant.
“She endured the harshest form of chemotherapy known to man which wiped out all of her white blood cells, she became extremely ill, she nearly died. It was awful,” her mother said.
Bonnie says that after the first bone marrow transplant, Maya recovered and was in remission, but her cancer came back a few months later and she needed a second bone marrow transplant.
An anonymous donor in Cincinnati where Maya received her first aid matched.
Bonnie says that after the second transplant, Maya was doing very well and had been in remission for several years.
“She lived her best life, she went back to school, danced, went horseback riding, swimming, all the things she loved to do.”
But her cancer returned and Maya’s only hope was a third bone marrow transplant.
Desperate to save their baby girl’s life, Bonnie says they moved to Memphis and met with doctors at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital who gave her the only news she wanted to hear.
“We’re going to look for the cure,” Bonnie recalls.
Maya’s third transplant and all of her care at St. Jude didn’t cost their family a penny thanks to the generous support of St. Jude donors.
“We never saw an invoice,” Bonnie said. “It’s all been paid for, I mean, I don’t know if a lot of people know this, but a bone marrow transplant can cost a million dollars. So when we were at Cinn Children’s, we got two bills because she had two million dollar transplants.
Unfortunately, Maya finally lost her battle at the age of 14. But beautiful memories of her, affectionately nicknamed the girl with red glasses, and her fight will live forever.
“The experience at St. Jude was amazing. Our family will be forever indebted to St. Jude for all they have done, and we will continue to pay it to St. Jude for the rest of our lives,” Bonnie said.
You can help children in the fight of their lives by supporting St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital through the Dream Home Giveaway campaign.
Tickets will officially go on sale this Friday. If you book yours by the end of this day, you’ll be eligible to win not only a dream home, but the ultimate Memphis basketball experience – which includes Memphis Grizzlies memberships, for Memphis Tigers men’s basketball and a $1,500 Visa Gift Card.
Visit dreamhome.org for details.
Copyright 2022 WMC. All rights reserved.
Click here to subscribe to our newsletter!
Click here to point out a spelling or grammatical error. Please include the title.