Paige Holbrook has come a long way.
Paige Holbrook, 19, (right) stands with her parents Beth and Bob Holbrook and her brother Rusty in the family's back yard. Paige was diagnosed almost five years ago with epithelioid
sarcoma, a form of cancer, and treated
at St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital. Harlem will hold a walk-a-thon to benefit St. Jude's, and Beth and Bob Holbrook
will be participating.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
Today, she's a vibrant 19-year-old who studies dental hygiene at Augusta Technical College and works part-time at Atlanta Bread Company.
But only five years ago, her life and that of her family was much different. It was then that she was diagnosed with Epithelioid Sarcoma, a rare solid tumor cancer that mainly affects adults.
Just after starting her first year of high school, Holbrook was told by doctors that a mass on her shin was cancerous.
The smile of the self-proclaimed "Daddy's Girl" faded only for a few moments, her father Bob said.
"She said, 'I am going to be fine. We'll whip this,"' he said as the memory caused his eyes to well with tears.
Less than a week after being diagnosed, Holbrook became the newest referral to St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, Tenn. - a hospital that Harlem officials and residents want to help through a Miracle Mile Walk from 9 to 11 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 28.
Kathy Ham, coordinator of the event and director of Harlem's Industry, Trade and Tourism department, said Harlem held a Bike-A-Thon for the hospital about 10 years ago, but the city is ready to help again.
"We just decided we would help out with the walk and bring our community together," Ham said.
Holbrook said St. Jude's is a worthwhile cause.
"It's not like going to a doctor's office, it's really not," Holbrook said. "It's just a really awesome place."
The pediatric research and treatment facility welcomes referrals of children and adolescents with newly diagnosed, untreated or suspected cancer or with hematologic, immunologic or genetic diseases.
The hospital accepts insurance from patients that have it, but no family is asked to pay for any treatment, or even for travel to the hospital, food or lodging.
"I'm sure we would have handled it," Holbrook's mother said. "I also feel that it would have been a whole lot more stressful. (The hospital) makes it 100 percent easier."
Ham said 30 people, who will either gather donations or per mile pledges, have already committed to walk in the city's fund raiser. The route begins at the Laurel and Hardy Museum of Harlem on Louisville Street and continues on Trippe Street to West Boundary, then to West Forrest Street back to city hall for refreshments, Ham said.
Dot Xiques, St. Jude's senior program supervisor, said she expects 3,350 walk-a-thons or bike-a-thons will be held nationwide this year to benefit the hospital. Each raises about $800, she said.
"Danny Thomas, when he started this hospital, he thought it was bad enough to have a child sick and to have to sit and worry how to pay for it," Xiques said.
Holbrook has been attending the hospital once every six months for check ups since her more intensive therapy ended. She endured 52 hours of a treatment called internal breaking therapy, 25 hours of external radiation therapy and two skin grafts before being released in mid-December of 1999.
"For being taken away from my family and friends and everybody else here, it wasn't that bad," Holbrook said of St. Jude's. "It's a wonderful place. It's absolutely wonderful."
Holbrook's parents want to do their part to give back to the hospital by participating. Holbrook said she has to work that day to be able to take the following few days off for her five-year check-up at the hospital.
The check-up is considered a milestone.
A cancer patient is not formally considered in remission, needing only annual check-ups, until the cancer has been gone for five years.
Holbrook said she is excited about her first trip to St. Jude's after care clinic.
But the Holbrooks admit they will never forget all the people at the hospital, adding that the St. Jude's workers helped heal their daughter.
"It's an incredible facility," Holbrook's father said. "It really is more than a hospital."
For information about Harlem's Miracle Mile Walk for St. Jude's, call Ham at 556-0401.
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