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Stories of Hope: Sierrah

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SODDY DAISY, HAMILTON COUNTY -

Like many teenagers, 16-year-old Sierrah Lemons stays active and busy. Most of her life centers around volleyball.

Watching her on the court, no one would ever know the Soddy Daisy sophomore lost an eye to cancer as a toddler.

"We noticed that she lost the vision in her right eye and took her to the pediatrician. And he got us in with a specialist the next day and that's where she got her diagnosis of retinoblastoma," said Salena Lemons, Sierrah's mother.

Just three days later, Sierrah and her family arrived at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis.

"They actually removed her eye on her third birthday," Salena Lemons explained.

"It was the hardest week I've ever been through. Whew. It was mind blowing," added Salena's father, Jeffrey Lemons.

Sierrah has spent her childhood making trips to St. Jude for check-ups and procedures. At first it was every three months. Then it changed to six months. Now she goes once a year.

"It's fun. And it's a good place to go," said Sierrah.

"It's a fun trip. They make it fun for these children. She has never dreaded going to St. Jude. As a parent, I enjoy the time that we have together. It's special," said Salena.

Sierrah will continue helping St. Jude in their fight to cure childhood cancer after she becomes an adult.

"They're actually going to see her every five years after she turns 18. She agreed to do research with them," said Salena. "So every five years they'll fly her up and they'll put her through a battery of testing and she'll do that the rest of her life as long as she wants to continue doing it."

The loss of her eye hasn't kept Sierrah from enjoying life.

"Not much. It's kind of hard to see, but you just get used to it," explained Sierrah.

"She stumbled a lot when she was little. Lots of, you know, fall down and bump her knee," added Salena.

St. Jude recommended dance lessons and gymnastics to help Sierrah with her balance. From there, Sierrah moved on to baton, baseball, basketball, running hurdles, karate, and golf before finding her current love: volleyball.

"Every now and then, when she was playing baseball she'd favor it to one side. In basketball, she'd be dribbling down the court and she'd have to turn her head, but other than that, she's just like every other kid with two eyes. I mean, an enormous talent," said Jeffrey.

Seeing Sierrah thrive is something her parents are grateful for every day.

"She was two. She was a toddler. We didn't know if we were going to bring her home," said Salena. "But 13 years later we're here. And she's a success story. And she's a remarkable young lady with lots and lots of talent."

The care they received at St. Jude not only helped Sierrah heal, but their family cope.

"They are so accommodating for not just the parents, not just the patients, but also for her brother and sister that were there as well," said Salena.

Families like the Lemons never receive a bill. The St. Jude Dream Home is one of many fundraisers that helps make that possible.

"Every donation, every charity that takes place involving St. Jude, it helps," said Jeffrey.

"Where she came from and where she is today - I could never say thank you enough for all of the donations and all of the support that our community and others far have put into this hospital. And look at her, she's a success story," said Salena.

When Sierrah graduates, she hopes to play volleyball in college and become a marine biologist. One thing is for sure, she isn't slowing down.

"I'm still going strong. Yeah," she said.

READ MORE | 2017 St. Jude Dream Home tickets

Tickets for the Dream Home cost $100. All the money goes toward helping children at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. No patient ever receives a bill, so families can focus on helping their child get well.

Progress on the home is moving along and it is expected to be finished and ready for open house tours by mid-May. The house and several other prizes will be given away on Sunday, June 25 during a special broadcast on Channel 3.

Tickets are available online, by phone at 1-800-750-6962 or at Regions Bank locations in Tennessee. Georgia residents can purchase tickets at a Regions bank location in Tennessee or by phone only.

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