MEMPHIS, TN— Having a child diagnosed with cancer is a parent's worst nightmare. For the past 50 years St. Jude Children's Research Hospital has been the driving force to make sure every child with the disease has a fighting chance. When it opened in 1962 the survival rate for childhood cancer was 20 percent. Now in 2012 it's more than 80 percent, thanks in part to its work. One family is living proof of that.
"Doctors said there was a mass that was the size of a small football, a nerf football inside her chest," said Cal Adams of Kentucky.
He’s the father 7 year old Kaelyn Adams. It's been a long journey for the family. Kaelyn Adams was diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia in December 2009.
"Her doctor came to us and told us that she had acute lymphoblastic leukemia. The cancer was completely all over the left side of her body and coming to her right side," said Kaelyn’s father.
At one point doctors from her Kentucky home told the family, Kaelyn only had days to live. That's when the family decided to bring her to St. Jude. The toughest part for this 7 year old was losing her hair.
"I love my hair because I love how soft it feels and I love to play with it," Kaeyln told abc24 news.
"Daddy promised her as long as she's taking chemo that I'll keep cutting my hair,” said Cal Adams.
The world-renowned hospital has made tremendous strides increasing the survival rate for leukemia. It's the most common type of cancer in children.
"The cure rate was 4 percent in 1962 and now it's 94 percent," said St. Jude CEO Dr. William Evans.
That's the legacy of philanthropist-actor Danny Thomas: having no child die before his or her time. The hospital's work isn't over.
"Cancer is still the leading cause of death by disease in U.S. children," said Dr. Evans.
The Memphis-based hospital treats children from around the world regardless of a family's ability to pay. It's not only a huge help for the Adams' family financially but they can enjoy life's precious moments.
"This February we'll celebrate 2 years of being cancer free,” said Cal.
"5 years means I'm cured!" said Kaelyn ecstatically.