St. Jude Stories of Hope: Chattanooga boy saved by St. Jude grows up to work there
CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) -- One Chattanooga man says losing an arm to cancer changed his life for the better.
Joel Alsup conquered cancer with the help of St. Jude doctors, only to return to the hospital to join the staff.
"I've had a really active life because of the encouragement I received here," says Alsup.
Alsup hasn't let cancer slow him down. He was seven years old when a doctor at Children's Hospital in Chattanooga made a startling discovery.
"There was a tumor growing in my right shoulder and it was near my lungs and the tumor had broken a bone in my right arm."
Fortunately, the tumor had not spread into Joel's lungs, and his doctor knew what to do next. That's when his doctor sent him to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.
Joel was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, the most common type of bone cancer. St. Jude doctors went to work, caring not only for Joel but for his family too.
"Anything our insurance didn't cover we didn't have to worry about, so right away that was a huge burden lifted off my parents' shoulders."
That way Joel's parents could concentrate on his treatment.
"I had four rounds of four different kinds of chemo therapy and in April of 1988 the decision was made to go ahead and amputate my right arm," says Alsup.
Joel jokes that he became a lefty. He played baseball and intramural basketball as a kid.
Today he competes in triathlons and works at St. Jude in the creative media services department. He interviews patients about their stories of hope, while sharing his own.
"The absolute best part of my job is when a new family that walks through those doors, who we get to meet and interview, can look at me and say 'hey, here's a kid 25 years later who does grow up. This can happen for my child.'"
He says St. Jude gave him a chance at life -- a life he says he wouldn't trade for anything.
"If someone came to me today and said you can go back in time, had never had cancer, had never lost your right arm, but that means you wouldn't have been at St. Jude and you wouldn't be where you are today. I wouldn't do it, I'm absolutely where I'm supposed to be."