“I had a really difficult pregnancy and almost lost Eden. She was just always sick. I kept thinking every time I took her in to see her pediatrician, wondering what it was going on with her, something was always there telling me there’s more,” said Nicole, Eden’s mother.

When Eden’s legs began to be covered in bruises, Nicole chalked it up to rough or energetic playing. When the bruises started popping up on Eden’s face, back and chest, she became concerned.

“We took her in to our pediatrician and did blood work. And immediately I think they knew that something was wrong. And she just came in and said, ‘The blood work did not come back very good. We’re sending you on to St. Jude.’ And I just completely lost it,” said Nicole.

“I don’t get upset much, but that pretty much got me. I was the scaredest (sic) I’ve ever been in my life for sure,” added Chad, Eden’s father.

The diagnosis was difficult to process.

“Yesterday I had a child that just had some bruises. And now I have a child that has leukemia. It felt like this train and it was going full speed and I’m on it and I’m thinking, ‘I don’t know where we’re going. But I don’t think I’m going to like it.’ It just led into weeks of really difficult chemotherapy,” said Nicole.

The treatments were tough on Eden, and as a young child, she couldn’t fully understand what was happening. Watching her struggle through those hard days was difficult for her parents.

“One day she had just had enough. And was sitting in the floor screaming. And kept saying, ‘I don’t live here. I hate cancer.’ And it just broke my heart as a mom to know this was just the beginning.”

18 months later, Eden is doing well.

“In the beginning, it felt completely inconceivable that we could do this routine for three years. And now that we’re halfway through, it feels like maybe we can do this,” said Nicole.

“She’s just strong. She’s a powerful little girl. She’s very inspirational to me. To watch her everyday, it makes me smile. I am proud of her,” said Chad.

Eden’s family is grateful for the care and support they’ve received at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

“Every day we wake up and she’s happy and eating and talking and wanting to play and we’re like, this is because of St. Jude. As hard as anyone could fight for a child, they’ve done it. It’s incredible. I mean, I’ve never, ever seen anything like it.

Not only do patients at St. Jude never receive a bill for their medical care, the hospital also covers lodging, transportation and food and offers support services to help the whole family.

“St. Jude for us is so much more for us than just a place where Eden receives treatment. St. Jude has completely carried our family through this process,” said Nicole.

Nicole recalled a special expression of that care that made Eden’s day.

“Her birthday’s in February and we had to be at St. Jude the day after. She had tested positive for a virus and she was in isolation. So she’s just stuck in this room all day. And her nurses and her doctors surprised us, came in the room, sang ‘Happy Birthday’ and had a big poster and balloons and a light-up crown. She was pretty excited.”

Eden’s parents recognize the difference years of research at St. Jude has made in their daughter’s treatment.

“I know how serious her diagnosis is. But I just feel such hope and peace. She has a future. And she has a life just because of the research,” said Nicole. “My dad had an older sister and his older sister died of childhood leukemia when she was almost the same age as Eden. So in one generation, the research that St. Jude has done has saved lives. And not just a child in a city, a child on the TV, a child in my family. My child has been saved.”

Tickets for this year’s St. Jude Dream Home Giveaway in Chattanooga are sold out, but you can still tour the home on weekends through Sunday, June 18.

Watch WRCB Channel 3 on Sunday, June 25 from noon – 1 p.m. for the home drawing along with several other prizes.