‘Keep living ... keep going’: Teen shares cancer survivor story to advocate for St. Jude

‘Keep living ... keep going’: Teen shares cancer survivor story to advocate for St. Jude

CHESTERFIELD, VA (WWBT) - A Chesterfield teen has traveled the country, sharing her personal story of beating childhood cancer.

Now, just weeks away from graduating from L.C Bird High School, Emily Woodall has her eyes set on a dream job - working for ALSAC, the fundraising arm of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

For her senior capstone project, Woodall and her classmates created a friendly competition with their crosstown rival, Thomas Dale High School.

To see who could raise the most money for St. Jude, L.C. Bird came out on top, something Woodall is very proud of.

"We raised $8,377.22,” she said.

Her desire to help St. Jude is personal.

“I first went to St. Jude on August 2nd, 2002, which is when I was diagnosed with High Risk Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia,” she said. "I had a mass in my chest, in my heart area, and I had it in my spine.”

Emily first went to St. Jude in 2002.
Emily first went to St. Jude in 2002.

Two and a half years of testing, chemotherapy, and bone marrow transplants were made tolerable by the kid-friendly environment and world renowned staff at St. Jude.

“I had my favorite nurse Regina, and she was amazing. She was like my best friend. I would always go and I would ask for her," she said. "And I still go and see her now.”

Emily makes a return to St. Jude as she was growing up.
Emily makes a return to St. Jude as she was growing up.

But some of the friendly faces she grew up with at St. Jude - are no longer there.

“My closest friends were Morgan,” Woodall said. "There was another girl name Emily, Emma Grace, Spencer, Darryl, and a couple of them didn’t make it. Emily has been cancer free since 2005, and has yearly checkups at St. Jude.

Recently, researchers at the hospital saw a trend with some of their female cancer survivors, just like Emily.

These women were having fertility issues.

During her most recent visit, doctors mapped out a plan for her to go through an IVF cycle.

“I was there for the first two weeks in January, and they paid for our flights, they paid for our hotels, they paid for the egg transplant, and they’re paying for storage up until I’m 35,” Woodall said. "So basically they’re giving me hope to have a family one day.”

Emily on a return visit to St. Jude.
Emily on a return visit to St. Jude.

Woodall doesn’t doesn’t take anything for granted.

The reality of it is, she’s seen death first hand, and she knows how important it is for families to have St. Jude by their side.

“Whenever I go back and see the kids, and that’s when I get sad, because I see the kids there that are in patient and sick,” she said.

But still, they’re filled with hope.

“You can see them running around and they’re all playing in their wagon, playing video games,” Woodsall said. "It’s like they’re sick, but they don’t see themselves as sick; they just see themselves as surviving.”

Woodall is sharing her story to advocate for the kids at the hospital now, the ones who will need St. Jude in the future and her friends, Morgan, Emily, Emma Grace, Spencer, and Darryl.

“The ones that did make it, I know that they’re out there, still living and hopefully doing good," she said. "They taught me to keep living and to keep going on, and the ones that didn’t make it taught me to keep going too. I want to do it for kids like that, that are fighting through their treatment and are scared they’re not going to make it.”

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