One of our most cherished partnerships is with St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, whose mission is to advance cures, and means of prevention, for catastrophic pediatric diseases through research and treatment. NFM TV recently interviewed Joel Alsup, who is not only an employee of St. Jude but a former patient. Hear his incredible story of survival and hope and the amazing way he met his wife in this exclusive interview.

Full Transcript is Below:

– Very few things mean as much to us in the NFM community, as our partnership with St. Jude. I’m Greg Sher from NFM TV. We’re really delighted to bring on one of St. Jude’s finest. It’s Joel Alsup, he is a video producer of creative services at St. Jude, also a former patient of the hospital. Thanks for being with us on NFM TV, Joel and thank you so much for the partnership.

– Oh, it’s our pleasure. Thank you guys so much for everything you’ve done for patients like me at St. Jude.

– Well, you’ve got a long history there. You’re now an employee, but at one time as a very young boy, you were a patient. Tell us about the experience at St. Jude, and how it changed your life.

– So, yeah, I initially came to St. Jude in December of 1987 to be treated for osteosarcoma, which is a bone cancer in my right arm. We discovered it because a tumor actually grown large enough had broken a bone in my arm and stopped using it. I was living in Chattanooga, Tennessee at the time. Luckily our doctor there had done his fellowship at St.Jude, referred my family there. So I went to St. Jude, had about a year worth of treatment which just involved chemotherapy. And then about four months in the treatment had to have a surgery to amputate my right arm, to get rid of the tumor. Fortunately, for me, it did the trick, and I had another seven months worth of chemotherapy after that, but not just that. At St. Jude I learned how to use my left hand cause I was right-handed before. I kept up with my schoolwork. So I jumped right back into third grade, and got to go on and lead a normal, happy, and healthy and active life after that.

– St. Jude makes such a difference in so many families lives and the lives of young children. Tell us kind of like an overview of a mission statement.

– We are finding cures and saving children everywhere. So what our biggest goal is, is that we want to treat children with some of the world’s most rare diseases and life-threatening diseases without regard to a family’s ability to pay. We’re going to pay for treatment, travel, housing and food. That’s an exciting thing. That’s what my family had covered for us when we got there. We never had to worry about a single bill. My parents could just focus on me, to make sure that I was okay and that I got to live the life I wanted to live.

– And how large is the organization? Exactly, how many lives are you touching on a daily, weekly, monthly basis?

– Oh my goodness. So we have, gosh, over 7,000 active patients. We’ve treated kids from all 50 States, and from around the world. We also now have launched St. Jude global, which we are looking at wanting to increase the survival rates overall for childhood cancers, not just in Memphis, Tennessee not just in the United States, but overall for six of the most common forms of childhood cancer to 60% by the year 2030, because St. Jude has astounding survival rates, but around the world we found that’s not true. So we’re impacting lives not only in the U.S. but around the world.

– When you think back Joel, to your time there, what stands out as, you know, as a key factor to you getting through it? Because as a child it must have been devastating to you to hear this news that you were going to lose your arm.

– St. Jude did such a great job letting me know what was going on even though I was just seven. Letting my parents know exactly what was going on. I was never left out of the room, or left out of a difficult conversations. So by the time the decision was made to amputate my arm, I was prepared for it. And it sounds funny to say but even though I was right-handed, I was not good at things with those right hand I was probably secretly meant to be a lefty. So I had adjusted well, and St. Jude helped me to do that through rehabilitation, through simple things like learning to write with my left hand, how to, you know, button shirts, things like that. So I don’t, it’s something 99.9% of my day. I don’t even think about and that was an attitude that, you know, St. Jude not only gave me that saved my life, but gave me this attitude and perspective as well.

– And Joel, you’re part of an unbelievable love story that also ties in St. Jude. Tell us how you met your wife, and the impact that St. Jude had on her life.

– So we met at a fundraising event for St. Jude in 1993, I was 13 and she was 12. So she was in the middle of treatment for acute lymphoblastic leukemia, which is the most common form of childhood cancer. And so she had been treated there. I’d already finished my treatment there. She was beautiful and flawless. And from that point on, I was really intimidated and really in love with this girl. Flash forward, 25 years later, I finally decided to tell her how I felt. I played the long game on this one. Luckily she had the patience of a Saint, and we’ve now been married for two and a half years. We’re lucky enough to get married, actually on the St. Jude campus, because of what that place meant to us.

– If it wasn’t for St. Jude, if it wasn’t for the cancers, you two would have never met.

– No, we would have never met. So that, that is a blessing we always talk about it, as much as we could be bitter, and say cancer took something from us. It gave so much to us.

– So how do you go from a patient to an employee all these years later?

– So as I got into high school and college I got really interested in video production, discovered they had a video department. I was fortunate enough to apply there when I graduated and come aboard with ALSAC. And now I’ve been a video producer for more than 18 years, working at that organization.

– We’re delighted to be alongside you, and also to be a part of the sponsorship of the dream home giveaway at cities across the United States. And of course, NFM has also partnered up with Tom Lewis, professional PGA golfer, and we are contributing anywhere from 500 to a 1000 dollars per birdie, per PGA tournament, and we hope that number goes into the tens of millions of dollars. Joel, thank you so much for all you do, and also St. Jude. We really love being a partner of yours.

– Well, thank you so much, and thank you guys for partnering with us.

– I’m Greg Sher from NFM TV. We’ll see you again soon, so long.