Cousins Unite Against Cancer
Remco de Jong and Sean West are brothers-in-law and FedEx employees who have a strong relationship with St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital – both have children who have undergone treatment for cancer there and both run as St. Jude Heroes on Team FedEx, raising money for cancer research. Meet their children, Alyssa de Jong and Tyler West, cousins and St. Jude patients who hope to help cancer patients in the future.
Eleven-year-old Alyssa is a cancer survivor. It’s been just over two years since Alyssa was diagnosed with melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer.
In 2012, a small red mole on Alyssa’s arm was the start of her journey with St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Although this type of cancer is still uncommon in children, it is growing rapidly. St. Jude doctors have seen more than their fair share of cases. They are world-renowned experts in childhood cancer, and melanoma is no exception.
Not only are the doctors treating cancer and saving children’s lives, but the research at St. Jude will continue to save lives for years to come. Like so many childhood cancers, the origin of pediatric melanoma is still unknown. Alyssa didn’t tan outside or in a tanning bed. Through genomic research, St. Jude will find the answers. But know that sun exposure is still a factor and a risk for all kids.
Alyssa is now an advocate for melanoma research and sun safety. She enlists family and friends to help her remember to wear her hat, apply sunscreen and keep her arms and legs covered. She wears sunscreen head to toe, even underneath her clothing and on cloudy days. She knows it’s a habit she must continue for the rest of her life, rain or shine.
Alyssa is much older and wiser now because of her experience with cancer. She has experienced things that most hope to never have to deal with or understand. In 2013, when her younger cousin Tyler was diagnosed with leukemia, Alyssa stepped in to help him with his journey. Now, she talks about one day becoming a Child Life Specialist at St. Jude so she can continue to help other kids.
In 2012, Tyler was just a normal, active 6-year-old kid. He was in scouts, played soccer and karate, loved watching sports and pestering his two older sisters, Alexis and Abigail. He loved to climb, which earned him the name Spider Monkey! He was happy and active.
On Feb. 4, 2013, all of that changed when he was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia, which is a cancer of the blood. Tyler began his treatment at St. Jude and now has a little less than two years to go. He attends school at St. Jude so he will be on target with his class when it is safe for him to return.
Tyler learned about St. Jude in 2012 when his cousin Alyssa was diagnosed with melanoma. He was familiar with the hospital, not knowing that just a short time later he would be the patient. Alyssa answered questions for Tyler and often calls to see how his chemo is going!
Tyler’s journey as a St. Jude patient is filled with doctors, nurses, Chemo, blood and platelet transfusions, OT, and PT. He has spinal draws every few weeks to check his progress. His head doctor is Dr. Pui, who is one of the top cancer researchers in the world. He is wonderful and so compassionate. Tyler says he would like to be like Dr. Pui when he grows up so that he can help Dr. Pui make all cancer patients reach a 100 percent survival rate!
Our family has put all our faith in the wonderful staff at St. Jude. They have become our second family. We have become a St. Jude family, which allows us opportunities to speak and share our journey on behalf of St. Jude. We have a long way to go but we know Tyler will succeed and beat cancer! You can follow Tyler’s journey at www.facebook.com/tydudedance.