Childhood Cancer Awareness Month: Bailey, The Strongest Girl in the World

Hope your week is off to a great start! Yesterday was media day which, to me, feels a little like Christmas/the first day of school. It’s the official start to the season and, with all the photos and the mini reunions throughout the day, it’s like you’re coming back to college to start fall semester!

As the end of the month nears, I’ve been wanting to write a post about Childhood Cancer Awareness Month and one of the strongest kids–actually, forget kids–one of the strongest people I’ve ever met: Bailey. Words aren’t enough to describe this incredible young lady, but I’m going to give it a shot!

Let’s back up a little. During the 2010-11 season, I met the then-Hornets on a five-game road trip in New York City. We had lost the first game of the trip and the second–to the Knicks–and were scheduled to stay the night in New York and then fly to Memphis. Traditionally, the day after a back-to-back is an off day, but our coach at the time, Monty Williams, wanted to do something as a team – something non-basketball related.

That day — March 3, 2011 — we were all exposed to an incredible place: St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. We spent about an hour on a tour and had the opportunity to celebrate one patient’s release from the hospital with a “No Mo Chemo” party, which was such an incredible moment to be a part of. To add to the party, the patient was from Louisiana and a basketball fan, so he was really thrilled to have some of the guys there with him.  When we left, the players that were there couldn’t stop talking about how amazing the patient and his family were and how it meant so much to them to be there to cheer him on.

After we spent some time playing basketball with patients and their families, we headed to the hotel. The atmosphere had changed and everyone had a renewed sense of perspective. The kids and families we met that day were incredible — and the staff, the ENTIRE staff, was AH-MAZING! The positivity, kindness and genuine care that they show is inspiring.

Fast forward a few years to the fall of 2014. Coach continued to be an ambassador for St. Jude which included visits while the team was in Memphis in November, shooting a few PSAs and participating in the NBA’s annual Hoops for St. Jude Week. Knowing we’d be making a visit to St. Jude, I asked my boss if I could tag along for the trip to Memphis since it was a quick up-and-back trip.

We went to St. Jude and Coach was scheduled to film with two patients, including a seven-year-old named Bailey fighting kidney cancer. Watching them interact was incredible. Bailey has this captivating sense of humor and is so fun – she and Coach hit it off immediately. Coach ended up offering Bailey and her family tickets and my co-worker Ashley and I got to spend some time hanging out with them. Note – St. Jude patients and their families NEVER receive a bill; to give back and help increase awareness off St. Jude, Bailey has teamed up with countless celebrities on projects and PSAs, including this one with Jennifer Aniston. Isn’t she just the cutest?!

FF4

In the following weeks, Bailey started a treatment where all of her bone marrow was removed and then replaced with healthy bone marrow (her mom has a blog that has the medical details that are way above my head). While we were in Memphis, her family was planning to have its own Christmas tree and holiday celebration before treatment. Once the procedure was done, Bailey was going to have to be isolated from her siblings and would only be able to have her parents in the room for limited visits for MONTHS. Ashley and I sent her a little care package and continued to text with her mom to get updates.

After undergoing a successful treatment and being released from St. Jude, this summer, Bailey had the chance to swim and enjoy being a kid for the first time in years. Her mom sent us some pictures of her swimming with her siblings and it was the first time since she was diagnosed that she was able to be in the pool (since she wasn’t undergoing treatment). The look of pure joy on her face was incredible!

This month was Bailey’s every-three-month set of scans. When I talked to her mom, she had the best news — Bailey was STILL cancer free! She’ll have her next set in December and this will be the first year where she’ll spend upcoming holidays at home with her family. After all they’ve been through, including a move from Florida to Memphis to be closer to St. Jude, it makes me so incredibly happy that they’ve had such amazing news over the last 10 months. Below is a recent picture of Bailey from her mom’s Facebook. Bailey’s hair has grown back so much since we saw her last year and her mom said she is HATING the curls! Too cute!

Bailey

St. Jude is a great organization and the people that I have met and worked with from there have been pretty darn amazing.

Since St. Jude is in Memphis, for my fellow NOLA locals looking to support pediatric cancer initiatives, Ochsner does amazing work with their Ochsner Childrens Health Center. A fun, easy way to support their efforts is to check out the annual King Cake Festival which is on Jan. 31, 2016. Ochsner also has its annual Moonlight & Miracles Gala coming up and it’s a beautiful event! Check out your local groups supporting pediatric cancer and see how you can give back — Childhood Cancer Awareness Month is a great way to highlight how many children are impacted by cancer, but it’s something we need to focus on EVERY month!

For more information about St. Jude, visit http://www.stjude.org and for more information about Ochsner, visit http://www.ochsner.org.

I hope Bailey’s story inspired you as much as it did me– have a great day!

-Lindsey

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