• 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.

  • Staying Connected

    “Sometimes you have to look back to see how far you’ve come.”

    Although I haven’t been blogging for a while…don’t worry, I’m not going anywhere. There have been major transitions in my life. With the career, fitness, and everything else ever-changing, I still get excited about Little Giant Life. I’m still writing for We All Grow Latina Blogger Network and I’ve become more active via Instagram.

    Blogging is a business and it always keeps me on my toes. The face of blogging has changed and has become a multi-functional way of keeping up with trends and making money. It’s not about writing the 500-word article. It’s all about content! Currently, I’m brainstorming how to be more effective to you without burning myself out.

    The major update in my life is the journey to becoming a yoga instructor. My friend Amanda Smith took some incredible pictures of this next adventure. The day was inspiring and emotional. She is amazing! Please read the story here.

    After a two-year break from teaching any type of class, I’m back to teaching a yoga class at Athleta this Sunday! I don’t know where else I’ll be teaching next, but I’ll be sure to keep you informed.

    Thanks for always being there and know that I do what I can to inspire you. Here’s hoping your Holidays are filled with peace and love.

    Thrive. Move. Be happy!

  • 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

     

  • Deepening My Mind, Body, and Most of All My Soul

    It has been a very, very, busy, few weeks. Work has been far more intense than expected. However, I am excited to announce my latest adventure. But before I do, I’ll go back just a bit. I have been a dance teacher for the past 20 years and stopped (for now) about a year and a half ago. With the change of work/teaching life, I couldn’t do both. Teaching dance is a highly skilled art form which does a lot of damage to the body. As a result, I have experienced some physical ailments. But I don’t let it stop me.

    ¡El ejercicio es todo!

    I’ve always loved teaching and always saw myself teaching something other than dance. For the past 8 years or so, I’ve always dreamt of becoming a yoga teacher. And now the time has come!!!

    This weekend I will start my yoga teacher training and I’m beyond excited! The schedule fits my busy lifestyle and it has come at a great time! I invite you to follow my journey and hope you become inspired to do what you love to do! As everything in life, there is a process. I want to show the good, the bad and the realness of it all. So, follow me here and on Instagram for the progress.

    Namaste.

    Photo by: Creative Convex