WATCH: Former St. Jude Patient Gets Engaged at the Hospital that Saved Her
The first time 19-year-old Kadie Bumpus set foot in St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, her future looked grim.
At four years old, the Kentucky native had been recently diagnosed with stage 4 anaplastic ependymoma, a rare form of cancer, and she'd just had surgery to remove the grapefruit-sized tumor in her brain that was pressing on her eye. "They told us after the surgery she would not be able to talk. She wouldn't be able to walk," her mother, Jill Dixon, recalled to Today. "They were all in the room telling us she probably won't live to see her fifth birthday."
Doctors told her parents the tumor was aggressive and would grow back, and recommended they take Kadie home on hospice. Luckily, a family friend told them about a clinical trial St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, and the next thing they knew, they were in Memphis, Tennessee. There, Kadie received ground-breaking conformal radiation. After six weeks of treatment and a few years of follow up appointments, Kadie was back to normal—playing with friends, shopping and horseback riding—but she never forgot about St. Jude's.
Fifteen years out of treatment, Kadie has raised nearly $10,000 and collected truckloads of toys for the children at St. Jude. And last month, the hospital that saved her played a new role in her life, by helping her boyfriend stage a surprise proposal on its grounds. Her boyfriend, John David, took her for a carriage ride around Memphis, which concluded on the grounds of St. Jude. There, with some help from her family, he proposed to her on bended knee.
"She's very special, very grateful of everything," David told Today. "I think that St. Jude probably had a big help in making her who she is today."
Even though doctors feared she wouldn't live to see her first birthday, today Kadie is planning her wedding and studying to be an ultrasound technician. "She's a tough, tough, tough girl. And she will push through anything," her mother said. "She's been cancer free for 15 years, and that's the biggest blessing that we could ever ask for."