Two former patients of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital both survived their ordeals only to fall in love as employees at the same hospital that saved their lives.
Cancer sucks, but it’s even worse when you’re a kid. One minute you’re out playing baseball, running in the field and doing whatever kids do these days, and then the next minute you’re hooked up to an IV getting chemotherapy.
That’s what happened to Joel Alsup when he was just a boy. Gradually, a pain developed in his right shoulder that kept getting worse and worse. Eventually his parents took him to see the doctor, where they got some shocking news.
“There was a tumor growing in my right arm near a bone in my right shoulder,” he tells Today during their 'Thanks and Giving' segment.
While Alsup was getting diagnosed with a tumor, Lindsey Wilkerson was getting her own cancer diagnosis miles away in rural Missouri: acute lymphoblastic leukemia, a type of blood cancer.
For the Wilkersons, the news meant a total financial collapse. “My parents were checking their bank account. They were going to put our house on the market to sell everything, to hopefully be able to provide me with the care that could save my life,” she told Today.
But St. Jude’s Children Research Hospital is different. Families of children with cancer don’t get billed for their kid’s treatment, nor do they have to pay for housing or food while at the hospital. Everything was free.
That settled one worry, but there was plenty more to come during treatment. While both Wilderson and Alsup were at the hospital, they formed a tight bond developed from adversity. Wilderson went through 3 years of chemotherapy, while Alsup’s treatment eventually led to the amputation of his right arm.
The two drifted apart after their ordeal, but fate had other plans in store for them. Years later, the two would meet again after both getting jobs at St. Jude’s, with Wilkerson in the hospital’s fundraising department and Alsup in the video production unit.
Their friendship quickly reformed and then grew into something more.
Then one day, “He just turned to me and he said, ‘I love you.’ And I knew it immediately – I loved him, too. I have loved and admired him all my life,” Wilkerson said.
It was only natural that the two would wed at the same hospital that saved their lives shortly thereafter.
Now the two are living their best life while also contributing to the hospital’s Life Program, which studies childhood cancer survivors.