• From Cancer Survivor to Triathlete, Joel Alsup Does It All

    From Cancer Survivor to Triathlete, Joel Alsup Does It All

    This past year I had the great honor of visiting St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Our tour guide was Joel Alsup and he knew every in and out of the hospital. During the tour, he begins to tell his story of being a St. Jude cancer survivor. Not only was he knowledgeable, but as he shared facts about St. Jude, his face lit up with an energy that was contagious.

    Twenty-nine years ago this month, he was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, which is a type of cancer that starts in the bones.

    “I was 7 years old when my parents noticed that I stopped using my right hand. We went to my pediatrician and noticed the tumor on my arm. The tumor was strong enough to break a bone in my arm. Two days after Christmas, we traveled to St. Jude for help, “ says Joel.

    Former cancer patient, Joel Alsup is carried by his doctor, Brent Powell.

    Joel Alsup and Brent Powell

    Joel’s parents were uncertain if their health insurance would be sufficient to cover the year-long treatment. “I remember my Dad approaching the front gate at St. Jude and asking for hotel recommendations. We come to find out that all our expenses would be paid: room, board, meals, and treatment! ‘Focus on your son they said.”

    Chemotherapy started right away, but eventually Joel would receive distressing news. His arm would have to be amputated. He was put in touch with another patient who was also receiving treatment. Joel felt at ease knowing that someone else was fighting the same disease as he was, and his innate ability to power- thru helped him complete his journey. Joel remembers, “If John could do it, then I can too! At the time, I was more upset that my favorite Cubs t-shirt was cut to place my IV!”

    Joel was lucky that the tumor didn’t spread. Osteosarcoma is the most common type of bone cancer in children and teens. If the disease is localized (has not spread to other areas of the body), the long-term survival rate is 70 to 75%. If osteosarcoma has already spread to the lungs or other bones at diagnosis, the long-term survival rate is about 30%.

    Astonishingly, Joel wouldn’t change any part of his experience. “Losing my arm was a small price to pay. Sometimes, I feel guilty that I made it. In the past year, I’ve lost 3 friends. I go to bed knowing that they would want me to keep going and helping others. I have nothing but deep gratitude for St. Jude. As years go by, I witness St. Jude saving more kids.”

    Not only is Joel a former St. Jude cancer survivor, Joel has worked for St. Jude for 14 years. With a degree in Media Production, Joel is a producer and now works with other families to tell their story.

    “I enjoy filming the many beautiful stories that come from St. Jude. It’s amazing every time,” says Joel. See below to watch St. Jude’s end of year video produced by Joel.

    The default player for embedding or displaying video on stjude.org. Default size: 480×270

    Joel is not just a survivor, he has chosen to live life to the fullest. He has completed his 11th triathlon. In April 2016, he completed one in 7 hours! With the love of the outdoors and life, he plans to continue to be a part of them and spreading St. Jude’s message.


    Former patient, Brian, Joel, and former patient, Sarah at a marathon.

    Former patient, Brian, Joel, and former patient, Sarah

    “Life is beautiful. I look back at 29 years of life and being the best man in my brother’s wedding, being at my sister’s wedding, and vacationing with my family. St. Jude means everything to me. And what they’ve accomplished is beyond what I thought it would be. St. Jude is graduation. It’s a wedding. They’re part of my family.”

    To support St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, please click here.

  • St. Jude Teams With Love To Heal Cancer

    When I was invited to visit St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, I was incredibly humbled by the invitation. I was also a little apprehensive. Could I hold it together in the presence of children facing such challenges?

    As I was guided through the hospital, many patients, even infants, were wearing hospital masks. The urge to hug every child was palpable.

    Every inch of the hospital is inspiring and what makes it most memorable are the children and staff. It truly is a happy place. The hospital is set to expand in the next 6 years and with that expansion comes the addition of more talented individuals. Recently, I was lucky enough to speak with one of their dedicated staff members, Amy Love.

    Amy is the first music therapist to join St. Jude. She will be part of the new music room set to open soon.

    At the University of Dayton, Amy earned a bachelor’s degree in music therapy and a minor in psychology. She went on to earn her master’s degree in music therapy from St. Mary-of-the-Woods College. Additionally, she holds certifications in NICU music therapy and neurologic music therapy.

    A native of Louisville, Kentucky, Amy had a deep admiration for St. Jude and their work. She fell in love with pediatrics and was “willing to go anywhere” to be a part of it.

    The list of diseases the hospital researches and treats is impressive. St. Jude has increased the survival rate for acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) from 4% before opening in 1962 to 94% today!

    During treatment, a child can experience different levels of discomfort such as fatigue, depression, and many other side effects.

    “Writing a song with a child is a way for them to cope,” says Amy. “We work with a variety of instruments. We can work on drumming, the guitar, or the ukulele.”

    A young cancer patient, Farrah Courville is playing the drums. Beside her is music therapist, Amy Love playing a guitar.

    (LR) Farrah Courville, Amy Love


    Music is healing. To a child suffering from cancer, it can be a day where they may not want to get out of bed. Providing musical therapy to a child requires meticulous planning. Amy consults with a St. Jude specialists to review the patient’s diagnosis and emotional effects. With that, Amy will ask the child what type of music they like.

    “I find ways to work with the child. If the child is at a very young age, then I will invite the family to be part of the musical process. We make it fun and bring in fresh ways to accommodate the child.”

    As I talk with Amy, I remember the moments where I broke down in tears during my visit to the hospital. I asked how she copes. “At times, the children can become very sick and it’s very difficult to cope,” explains Amy.

    “Everyone at St. Jude is wonderful! Self-care is important to all of us. We’re surrounded by a very supportive team.”

    As Amy describes her time with the children of St. Jude, her voice fills with joy and admiration for them. No matter the case, children are resilient and often surprise Amy.

    “Some children want to improv on the spot! The younger ones love to beat box! Depending on their energy level, the creation of a song can begin sadly. But it usually ends up being an upbeat and happy song.”

    Care at St Jude Children’s Hospital is free. With daily operations upwards of $2.2 million, every donation is the key to keeping the hospital going and one day eradicating childhood cancer.

    “One thing is to see their commercials. It’s another when you witness resilience of the children. “The more people support our mission, the more we can have the children express themselves and make their treatment easier. It’s an honor to work at St. Jude,” shares Amy.

    Watch Amy in action here. Learn more about St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and join me in supporting their great work.


    While playing the guitar, music therapist, Amy Love sits surrounded by her instruments.

    Amy Love


    Feature image: (LR) Farrah Courville, Amy Love


  • Travel Diary: St. Jude Blog Tour

    There are moments in life, where they stand as “life-changing” moments. My recent trip to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital was not only life-changing but meant to be. As a proud St. Jude Blogger Ambassador, I was given the grand opportunity to tour their facility, meet with staff and most of all interact with their patients. Little Giant Life will share future posts and how to give back to this amazing institution. I encourage to share these posts for the sake of curing cancer! Follow me on Instagram for more great photos.

    Here is my photo diary.

    A statue of St. Jude is shown at the St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.

    St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital has treated children from all 50 states and from around the world.


    Former cancer patient and current employee, Joel Alsup is standing beside his picture displayed at St. Jude.

    Meet Joel! Our tour guide and former cancer survivor and patient of St. Jude. He now works at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and his smile is contagious!


    A brick building is shown as one of the homes for St. Jude cancer patients. Representing hope, a group of elephants made out of grass stand in front of the building.

    The Target House is offered to patients whose treatment is longer than three months.


    The entrance to a temporary housing of St. Jude's patients is shown. A statue of a young boy with an umbrella is shown. Words such dance, believe, love, life, courage, joy and smile surround him.

    Inspiration is seen as soon as one walks into the Target House.


    Inside the play room of St/ Jude's temporary housing. The ceiling of the Dreamworks is shown. The logo shows a boy fishing while sitting on the moon.

    Patients get to see film release before anyone else does.


    Art pieces created by celebrities such as Tom Hanks, Britney Spears and many others.

    Art pieces created by celebrities such as Tom Hanks, Britney Spears and many others.


    A hallway is shown with colorful painting and figures.

    Everywhere you turn, there is color to brighten anyone’s day.


    Target House features recreation areas for common use, including the Library and Pavilion, the Amy Grant Music Room, the Scott Hamilton Family Fitness Center and arts and crafts room, indoor and outdoor play areas and a garden patio.

    Target House features recreation areas for common use, including the Library and Pavilion, the Amy Grant Music Room, the Scott Hamilton Family Fitness Center and arts and crafts room, indoor and outdoor play areas and a garden patio.


    The Target House holds cancer patients and their families. A kitchen is shown.

    St. Jude patients who stay at Target House reflect the full range of the hospital’s population – from babies to teens.


    Downtown Memphis with a railway is displayed.

    Memphis was quaint and serene.


    A long standing bridge is shown with a clear, blue sky.

    My first time in Memphis gave me more desire to travel!


    A card written by a cancer patient reads, "I am thankful for St. Jude and the Target House for giving us hope, rest, fun places. I am thankful.

    Families never receive a bill from St. Jude for treatment, travel, housing or food – because all a family should worry about is helping their child live. To donate, click here.



  • What does hope look like?

    What does hope look like?

    I’m incredibly proud to announce that I’ll be participating in this week’s #StJudeBlogTour in Memphis, TN. I and 12 other bloggers were lucky to be chosen to be part of the amazing opportunity in touring St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. My eyes filled up with tears when I received the email invitation. I kept reading it over and over again, thinking it was a mistake. Come to find out, that it wasn’t.

    This blog’s intention is to spread overall good health: mind, body, soul and most of all giving back. Supporting children’s causes is the most important topic for me, this invitation is a humbling and most of all purpose-filled driven for this blog.

    What did I do to deserve such an incredible invitation? It’s certainly a sign that I’m willing to discover.

    We all know someone who has been affected by cancer. My hope is to bring more awareness in supporting those affected. During those times of need, it’s important to come together. And St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital is a great example of this.

    Therefore, please follow me on Instagram and Twitter for updates.

    Join me in the conversation using hashtag #StJudeBlogTour. The children would greatly appreciate it!