“Finding Cures. Saving Children.” St Jude Children’s Research Hospital and my family


Photo Credit: Anthony Abraham

St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital has been near and dear to my family for as long as I can remember. My mom’s uncle, Dr. Edward Soma, served for 43 years as a St. Jude board member and was a huge influence on my mom eventually joining the board as well.

I can still distinctly remember my mom taking off for Memphis every few months, despite having two young kids at home and a full-time job. Obviously my opinion is biased, but, to me, my mom is Superwoman — and I’m pretty sure that if you were to ask anyone who’s met her, they’d agree with me.

Growing up, I had an extraordinary fear of hospitals. Not simply a physical fear of the pain often associated with visits, but a deep emotional fear forged in the time spent at the bedside of a very sick dad. They were cold, harsh structures filled with the ghosts of memories I sometimes still wish I could forget.

So, in the summer of 2011, when my mom told me that my brother and I would be accompanying her to visit St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, I was terrified and nervous. I had no idea that visiting St. Jude was about to heal my long-held fear.

“You’re not going to believe this place when you see it, it’s unbelievable,” my mom said as we landed in Memphis, Tennessee.

“The hospital is basically a mini city,” she added.

It was important to my mom that my brother and I finally see the place where she had spent so much time and invested so much effort. After dropping off our bags at the hotel, we made our way over to the hospital. My mom had arranged for a summer researcher to give us a tour of the grounds, including the state-of-the-art labs and extensive social spaces.

As soon as I set foot inside the hospital, I couldn’t believe what I saw.

Everywhere I looked, I was greeted by chipper “hellos!” and beaming smiles. Tiny chairs lined brightly-colored waiting rooms and walls covered with beautiful works of art created by patients. Families sat at tables in the cafeteria together, laughing and playing. Doctors strolled the halls, chatting with patients and families, grabbing their morning coffee, greeting my brother and I as we walked by. It was unlike any hospital I had ever seen before.

It’s difficult to imagine that a place dedicated to treating children with cancer and other catastrophic diseases is filled with happiness, warmth, and, most importantly, relentless positivity.

But that’s why St. Jude is so special.

It all began 50 years ago with a promise Danny Thomas made to create a facility where research and compassion would work together to treat children; regardless of race, color, creed, or a family’s ability to pay.

As you walk through the halls of this remarkable place, Danny Thomas’ words echo in the life-changing work happening at St. Jude every day: “No child should die in the dawn of life.”

For the eigth year in a row, my amazing mother Tama Zaydon will be participating in the Nautica South Beach Triathlon to raise money for St. Jude. She’ll be doing a half-mile swim, 19 mile bike, and 4 mile run. Way to put the rest of us to shame, mom! Though it’s not surprising considering the fact that her first successful fundraiser was at the age of five.

My mom’s passion for the St. Jude mission has consistently pushed her to keep returning to Memphis year after year, and her dedication to the hospital has been inspirational to watch. I know I speak for everyone in my family when I say that we are so proud of her.

So, this is where you come in, dear friends. Mama Bear has a fundraising goal of $5,000!

Please give what you can to help her reach that mark. Scientific discoveries made at St. Jude have completely changed the way children with some of the most severe diseases are treated and cured. Treatments invented at St. Jude have helped push the overall childhood cancer survival rate from 20 percent to more than 80 percent since it opened in 1962. Plus, St. Jude freely shares medical breakthroughs with doctors and scientists worldwide in order to save thousands more sick children.

Whether you can give $200, $20, or $5, any amount will help support St. Jude’s lifesaving mission to find cures and save children.

It turns out my mom was right that day I landed in Memphis for the first time. St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital really is an unbelievably special place. In this hospital, warmth conquers gloom; and hope always triumphs over fear.

Head to my mom’s page to donate and support St. Jude (and Mama Bear!).


Thank You, Mom.

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I talk about my mom, Tama so much that sometimes I wonder if it annoys people. Maybe not everyone wants to hear the glimmering nuggets of wisdom she shares with me when I face a crisis, both large and pitifully small. But she has a way of extracting the most important facts in any situation and reducing them to simple, powerful lessons. My roommate and I once joked that #TamaBearWise should always be trending on Twitter.

In my family, Mother’s Day doesn’t come around just once a year. My mom is the most important person in my life and I hope she wakes up every day knowing how loved she is. But just in case she wasn’t 110% sure, this is for her — and for every other amazing mom out there.

Thank you, mom.

Thank you for forcing me to do things I didn’t want to do because you knew I needed to experience them before I could reject them.

Thank you for teaching me the importance of empathy and the value of kindness.

Thank you for making me work for everything I thought I wanted, so that I learned the importance of delayed gratification — and that what we want is highly changeable.

Thank you for welcoming my friends into our home, and always making them feel like it was their home, too.

Thank you for letting me fail, so that I could learn how to pick myself up again.

Thank you for pushing me when I was too lazy, or scared, to push myself.

Thank you for helping me during my darkest moments.

Thank you for being two parents in one, when it’s hard enough to just be a mom.

Thank you for affirming that I can talk to you about anything, no matter how difficult and painful some of those conversations have been.

Thank you for laughing with me and at me, and letting me do the same.

Thank you for listening to hours and hours of petty life sagas, and always making me feel like every single one provided a valuable lesson to carry forward.

Thank you for comforting me during moments of heartbreak with your contagious positivity and for affirming, with gusto, “it’s his loss.”

Thank you for supporting the unstable career path I’ve chosen, and cheering me on in all of my endeavors like I’m running for President.

Thank you for not killing me when I told you about that tattoo.

Thank you for showing me how to be a lady boss and teaching me to always stand up for myself professionally.

Thank you for encouraging me to embrace my feminist leanings and teaching me that happiness comes from within.

Thank you for leading by example, and being the most inspiring example a young girl could ever hope for.

Thank you for loving me unconditionally for the person I am.

Most of all, mom, thank you for being you; because without you, I definitely wouldn’t be me.

Happy Mother’s Day. I love you.

If your mom is as awesome as Tama Bear, but you don’t know how to tell her that, please feel free to share this post to let her know how much you appreciate everything she’s done for you!