Jonesboro Girl Celebrates Milestone Against Cancer

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) --  In an historic happening, three major networks join together in airing a prime time special, "Stand Up To Cancer."   There's a thousands of people in Region 8 who have had to do just that.  Some have lost the battle, but we have the chance to learn about one young woman who is emerging victorious.

Thirteen-year-old Sarah Smith and her mother, Anna, can smile now looking back at photos taken during her bout with a brain tumor.  But, five years ago, was a different story.  An MRI revealed something the family was not expecting.

"I remember being really upset," said Sarah.  "Kind of scared. What was going to happen."

"Sarah's is called a gangliogloma," said Anna Smith, Sarah's mother.  "It's a benign tumor and from then on, we've had the tumor removed as much as we could."

Sarah immediately had surgery to remove the tumor at Le Bonheur Children's Hospital and because it was benign she did not have chemotherapy.  Follow-up started right away at st. Jude's.

"Her tumor had formed a cyst," said Anna.  "The tumor was not growing itself, but the tumor had formed a cyst that was threatening the optic nerve which could affect her eyesight. So we radiated."

And even that had to be carefully timed.  Radiating a young brain is tedious.  There are issues involving a child's growth.  And as Sarah found, at age ten, you have to lie very, very still.  She--in fact--was bolted down to a table for radiation.

"This is the mask that you work during radiation to keep still so they could get good clear pictures," explained Sarah. "The lasers would come in at these marks. They marked where it needed to be done. We had this mouthpiece that kept you still that you had to bit down on."

When Sarah finally got to come back to school, her classmates celebrated.  And because of her stays in Memphis for follow-up care, Sarah and her family became avid Grizzly fans.  Something that continues even today.

Now Sarah is in the eighth grade at MacArthur Junior High in Jonesboro.  She returns to St. Jude's every sixth months to see Dr. Larry Kun, one of several physicians interviewed in the "Stand Up To Cancer" program to be aired on the networks.

Thanks to the Chili's corporation, Sarah and other patients like her are monitored in a a new 50 million dollar brain tumor research facility at st. Jude's.

"I do think the researchers are learning from every new case," said Anna.  "And when they did take Sarah's tumor out, we did donate the tumor to research. They ask you if you would like to do that. And certainly we wanted to learn from that."

With her mask now mounted on a canvas beneath the word "hope," Sarah has great hope for the future....   She and her mother believe its thanks to prayer, family and the medical care of St. Jude's.

"I'ts so close by and convenient to NE Arkansas, we just don't know how blessed we are," explained Anna. "There are people from all over the world there speaking different languages and everything trying to save the children's lives."

St. Jude's is a research hospital and that is why producers for the "Stand Up To Cancer" program came to the facility.

We are so proud for sarah and thanks to the program, tonight, we hope more people will realize the great strides that are being made in the fight against cancer.

If you'd like to take part in Chili's Bar and Grill's annual fundraiser for St. Jude's, mark this date on your calendar:  Monday, September 29th.  All proceeds from all Chili's will go to the Care Center for Brain Tumor Research.