Sheena’s Story

sheena-softball-150x150She lived in Duffield, a small town in Southwest Virginia. Sheena had a large, close-knit family with three siblings and loving parents and step-parents. From an early age, Sheena developed a passion for sports that remained with her throughout her life. She was a member of the basketball, volleyball, and softball teams at Rye Cove High School. Sheena was active in a variety of organizations, such as: Spanish, Beta, FCCLA, SADD, and SCM. She was a member of the student council and an AIM Scholar. Sheena was also very involved in the Thomas Village Baptist Church Youth Group. Sheena V was a beautiful person inside and out.  She had the love of Jesus in her heart, and that’s what truly made her the person she was. Summer of 2000 During what appeared to be a typical summer break between Sheena’s sophomore and junior years of high school, she awoke with a cough and felt too sick to attend basketball practice. No one could have predicted that the next 48 hours would reveal the extreme opposite. After seeing their doctor, Sheena was instructed to go to the emergency room immediately, and soon thereafter she was rushed to St. Jude’s Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee. St. Jude’s Hospital Sheena spent the next six and a half months of her life at St. Jude’s Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee. Until this point, the only time she had ever been in a hospital was to visit people. Shock and despair would not be understatements to describe Sheena’s feelings. From the beginning of her diagnosis, Sheena won the hearts of everyone she encountered and even those who heard about her illness around the country. She had always treated people with love and respect – and carried these loving acts of kindness with her to the end. Her warm and caring smile was contagious. Her charm had them hooked. Everybody from the world’s best doctors to maintenance workers continually checked up on her. Sheena’s cancer was very rare. Her family was told she was one of 100 cases reported worldwide and this was only the 20th case they had seen at St. Jude’s. Treatment was typical, Chemotherapy, radiation, and other experimental medicines helped prolong Sheena’s life and gave everyone hope, that one day she would recover. Doctors, nurses, and therapists were all so kind throughout this transition. There were obvious highs and lows during the six months in Memphis: losing her hair, not being able to be at holiday gatherings, missing classmates, and the typical things a 16 year old girl experiences. St. Jude’s understands this and works very hard at making patients feel welcome and loved. Celebrity visits were very common. While Sheena may have been disappointed about celebrating her 16th birthday in the hospital, having Tina Turner sing happy birthday to you can make quite the story. There are other stories like this. Amy Grant, Joe Thiesman, Laura Dern and Pat Summitt are just a few of the celebrities that were at St. Jude to help make the patients feel welcome and excited. Faith Sheena had tremendous faith. Through her illness she touched thousands of lives. She depended on her pastor for spiritual guidance. It was her faith that carried her through the illness with such grace. Reach The outpour of love and support came from all over the country. Letters were delivered to Sheena by the hundreds! Gifts, cards, emails, and other ‘get well soon’ messages came from churches, schools, friends, newspapers and strangers. Sheena was always so excited when the mail was delivered. sheena_hospital-150x150The love and support from everybody was one thing that helped Sheena stay positive and never give up. She wanted to live so badly. She always made plans for the future. She fought a courageous battle, teaching us all some valuable lessons. She never thought of her situation as being worse than anybody else’s. She never lost hope, asked why, or complained about her illness. She met it head on and fought until the very end. While Sheena’s last breaths of life were taken at St. Jude’s they were not all bad. Her time there was an inspiration. Her memory will live on in the hearts and minds of all who knew and loved her. She will be remembered for her beautiful smile and the way she made everyone feel so special. Even through her illness, she encouraged others to Live • Hope • Dream.

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