Like many teenage boys, 18-year-old Tarquavious “Quay” Gray likes to be active, enjoys basketball and spend time with friends. But unlike his peers, Quay is focused on serious matters most young people will never have to face.
“He was walking around with his shirt off, and I noticed [swelling in] his belly, but I thought maybe it was a hernia,” said Tiffina Mobley, Quay’s mother.
Quay wasn’t concerned, but his mother knew something was wrong. She took him to the doctor a couple of times, but they couldn’t figure out what was wrong. A few months later, doctors diagnosed Quay with a desmoplastic small round cell tumor in his abdomen.
The disease is an extremely rare type of cancer that typically forms in the abdomen, but can develop in other parts of the body. Boys and young men are about four times more likely to develop the disease than girls and young women.
A specialist in Atlanta referred Quay to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.
Adjusting to life away from home wasn’t easy for Quay at first.
“He was in a little shell by himself. So of course, I would go around and meet kids for him and ask them to come around and stuff like that. So he kind of got over his shyness and look at him now. All over the place,” said Mobley.
But Quay soon found a new focus.
“Of course, it’s sad, but I don’t want to feel sad or anything. Because when I first started feeling sad I probably started thinking the worst of things.”
Quay found a new friend in Hannah Tate, whose positive attitude inspired him. After her death last fall, Quay continued her mission to spread happiness to others.
“I was sad, but I was like, ‘I’m going to do what she did to me,’” said Quay.
Quay is an active part of teen life at St. Jude. He recently attended the spring formal and he and other teens help support each other.
“Everyone will sit around and tell their experiences or what they have. And we’ll be kind of like, ‘Oh, what’s your diagnosis?’ Or like, what kind of medicine are they getting. If we can compare and see if we can help them out, too,” said Quay.
Mobley said she’s watched her son mature as he faces the challenges in front of him.
“I think he has grown a lot. He’s matured a lot to want to take on that. So I’m very proud of him. I couldn’t ask for a better kid.”
Quay and his mother are grateful for the support for St. Jude through donations and fundraisers like the Dream Home, which allows him to receive care at no cost.
“Words can’t even explain it. Because the things that he go through, and I knew that I wouldn’t be able to afford any of that,” said Mobley.
“I would like to personally thank them myself for doing what they’re doing to take time out of whatever they’re doing in their lives and stop and help us make a cure for whatever we’re going through,” said Quay.
Quay has completed chemotherapy and he’s wrapping up radiation. He hopes to keep impacting the lives of others each step of the way.
“I live to inspire. So everyone I see, I’ll inspire them to spread happiness to everyone that I meet.”
In Tennessee, tickets are available online, by phone at 1-800-750-6962 or at Regions Bank locations in Tennessee. Georgia residents can purchase tickets by phone or at a Regions Bank location in Tennessee.
Each ticket costs $100. A limited number of tickets are available and the past two giveaways have sold out early.
The St. Jude Dream Home Giveaway is one of the largest single-event fundraisers for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis. It generates more than $290 million for the research and treatment of childhood cancer.
Wednesday, August 23 2017 11:49 PM EDT2017-08-24 03:49:44 GMT
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