Chattanooga native repeatedly beats odds in childhood cancer battle
A Chattanooga native fought a brave battle with cancer not once, not twice but three times.
It took years of treatment, but Lindsey Headrick eventually won the fight, repeatedly beating the odds.
READ MORE | 2018 St. Jude Dream Home
St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital is a place Headrick knows well.
“It’s something I’m proud to be part of,” Headrick told Channel 3.
She spent much of her childhood at the hospital in Memphis.
Headrick’s fight began when she was 9 years old.
“My mom felt like something just wasn’t right,” said Headrick.
Her flu-like symptoms turned out to be leukemia.
As Headrick and her mom, Susan Gruwell, were preparing to leave for St. Jude, they received more bad news.
“She did some odd things like she’s right-handed, but she brushed her teeth with her left hand and she couldn’t buckle her seatbelt,” Gruwell said.
Headrick was having a stroke.
Her father, a doctor, knew what she was up against.
“He was just emotionally impacted because he knew too much. When she first stroked, and he pulled up the MRI, he said it was just a battleground. Her brain was just the most horrible images for him to see,” Gruwell told Channel 3.
It was a race against the clock to get Lindsey to St. Jude. A man volunteered his private plane to take her to Memphis.
St. Jude brought in a doctor to attempt a procedure that had never been performed on a child.
“I just remember waking up and there’s balloons and everything and everyone is looking at me. They asked me to move my right hand and I did and everyone was just so ecstatic,” Headrick recalled.
“We know that if she had not gotten to St. Jude, we wouldn’t have had a chance. We wouldn’t have dealt with leukemia because there would’ve been nothing to do at that point,” Gruwell said.
Headrick went into remission a couple of years later. Her family thought the ordeal was behind them, but it wasn’t.
“He called and said she’d relapsed, and I just remember pounding my fist into a pillow and saying no, I was not going to accept that she had relapsed. You know, as if saying no was going to make it not happen,” Gruwell said.
Instead of starting high school, the now 14-year-old would have to go back to St. Jude to fight cancer a second time.
“It was easier physically and emotionally because I knew what to expect," Headrick said.
Headrick received another devastating diagnosis when she was 19-years-old. The cancer had returned. This time, Lindsey would need a bone marrow transplant. Her sister was a perfect match.
Today, Lindsey has taken her battle with cancer and turned it into something positive. Nearly 20 years after her original diagnosis, she’s cancer free. She’s a wife and a mom to twin girls.
“Through a mighty miracle, we did fertility treatments, and my daughters are now 17 months,” Headrick said.
She’s an oncology nurse, helping patients with the same compassion she received.
Headrick says she wouldn’t change anything about her journey or the special bond she shares with her mom.
“If you count all three times, I don't think most mothers would have spent as much time with a child as she and I have so I think we are really the best of friends,” Gruwell said.
“It’s not an I did this, it’s a we did this,” Headrick told Channel 3.
When Lindsey goes back to St. Jude for check-ups now, she brings her husband and children with her.
“To have them kind of completes the circle," Headrick said.
You can help patients battling childhood cancer at St. Jude by purchasing a ticket to the 2018 St. Jude Dream Home.