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With an event name like “Hoops for Life,” one might assume that Amy and Shannon Aldridge’s fundraiser is a basketball event, not a 5k walk and run. But the 6th annual Hoops for Life 5k held in Cape Girardeau, Missouri is in fact named in memory of Amy’s daughter Sahara “Hoops” Aldridge who was an avid basketball player, WNBA fan, and cancer fighter.
“She excelled at the game and could drain a 3-point shot from half court when she was 11 years old,” Amy recalls. “My husband took her to a WNBA game in Indianapolis, and he was so touched that his girl wanted to hold his hand as they walked–until it became apparent that she needed to do it to keep her balance.”
In the next few weeks, Sahara’s balance worsened but the family assumed it was growing pains as she had just grown two inches taller. It wasn’t until they were at the orthodontist that they realized something could be seriously wrong. The orthodontist noticed that Sahara’s eyes weren’t tracking from left to right, and immediately referred the family to a pediatric neurosurgeon. On Sahara’s 12th birthday, July 24, 2006, she was diagnosed with stage 4 glioblastoma multiforme, a rare pediatric brain tumor.
“We were thrown into the terrifying world of childhood cancer. Shannon and I were out of our minds with fear. But Sahara, true to fashion, patted me on the back and said, ‘Don’t worry mom. I’ll be fine.’”
After months of unsuccessful chemotherapy treatment, their doctors had told the family there was not much more that could be done. For Amy and Shannon, this response was “unacceptable”. Unsatisfied with their options, they took Sahara home and began their research.
“But I had a plan C: a brilliant pediatric neurosurgeon at Stanford, Dr. Michael Edwards," Amy said. "He asked how fast I could get her to California. We arrived two days later.”
The operation was more successful than they had anticipated and Dr. Edwards was able to remove 70 percent of the tumor. Sadly, Sahara succumbed to her illness in November 2007, but the family attributes the hope and extended time with Sahara to Dr. Edwards and his care team.
The Aldridges now use the annual Hoops for Life event as a way to grieve, honor Sahara’s life, and fight for a cure. The event has grown into a large community event with hundreds of runners and walkers raising more than $29,000 for childhood cancer research. Since 2007, the Aldridges have raised an astonishing $125,000 for our hospital.
“Dr. Edwards is one in a million. We love his compassion, his knowledge, his skill, and his desire to help save the lives of children,” Amy said. “He and the team at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford are second to none. Hope comes from that place.”
Watch a video Dr. Edwards sent to the Aldridges to thank them for their support of his research.
I am SO honored to present to you Dr. Michael S.B. Edwards, who graciously agreed to provide Hoops for Life 5K Run/Walk supporters with this fascinating and candid update about the research currently happening at the Center for Children's Brain Tumors at Lucile Packard Children's Hospital Stanford. He explains it in a way we can all understand, which was one of the traits that made him the most amazing physician in Sahara's journey. She thought he was awesome (and so do we!). Please, please take a few minutes to truly listen and learn. This is what is going on NOW in cutting-edge cancer research at Stanford, and we are so pleased to support their program with the proceeds from all Hoops for Life events. Many of you have heard me speak so many times about the promising future of immunotherapy for brain tumors - now you can hear it from the man himself. This is where your money goes, folks. Thank you, Dr. Edwards...YOU ROCK!
Posted by Amy Aldridge on Thursday, June 25, 2015