St. Jude Collage

(Photo Courtesy: St. Jude)


Being a new mother can be overwhelming. Being a new, single mom can add even more stress to the job. But when I think about bills I forgot to pay or errands I didn’t run, I think about Elnora Lee–an amazing mother I met recently at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis. When I complain about my hectic schedule, I mentally go over what Elnora does in a day. She wakes up before the sun comes up at 5 a.m. She gets four of her five children fed, dressed and dropped off at school. Her fifth child stays at home with her while she cooks, cleans and does laundry. She also takes the baby to doctor’s appointment and goes to physical therapy before picking her children up from school. She chauffeurs them back and forth to extracurricular activities and takes her two daughters to St. Jude. When they get home, she makes dinner, helps with homework and bathes the younger children. When she tucks them in, she irons clothes and fixes lunches for the following day. Then she spends time with her husband who works long hours. Her head doesn’t hit the pillow until midnight.   Did I mention three of Elnora’s five children are battling brain cancer? And she’s fighting for her cancer not to return. I don’t know what I would do if I lived her life. I imagine I would fall out on the floor in agony and in tears. And then, like Elnora, I would fall to my knees in prayer.   Diary of a First Time Mom is extremely honored and humbled to share her story of courage, survival and immeasurable faith.


When did you find out your two daughters had cancer?

I took Jayla and Felica to get eyeglasses, and the doctor said, “I see them.” I didn’t know what she was talking about, and she called someone else into the examination room. They told me to go to St. Jude’s hospital, and I asked if they were giving tours.


What was going through your head at the time?

It was like the Twilight Zone. When I found out they had cancer, I kept thinking, how are we going to pay for this. I shook my purse out on the woman desk and gave her everything I had. I mean, not one, but two of my children had tumors.


What happened next? 

For the next 18 months, I was at St. Jude, and they took care of everything. They told us to relax—that we would have no out-of-pocket medical expenses. It was really overwhelming. It took a heavy weight off so that we could concentrate on our children. We juggled a hectic appointment schedule. My husband would be on one side of the hospital; I’d be on the other. Maybe we’d be able to meet for lunch; maybe not. But eventually it did smooth out.


What happened during the treatments?
I was diagnosed with Hodkins Lymphoma. St. Jude took care of me as well. I underwent five months of chemotherapy and two months of radiation. They have been more than enough to me. Then I found out my baby had cancer as well. She was 14-months-old when we took her for her shots and found out. I have not one, not two, but three St. Jude patients. At first, I asked myself, “Why me?” Now, I ask, “Why not me?” Maybe I can help someone else who has a child with cancer. We checked the girls in three days after I was ordained as a minister. The relationship I know have with God I wouldn’t have it without this happening. Faith is the evidence of things unseen.


Why did you decide to share your story?

I’m tired by t I got up to tell my story. I pray consistently. I have to, because if I don’t my husband and my family wouldn’t make it. I would be crazy! You have to stay prayerful. You can’t freak out, because it makes it worse for the child. I try to help new parents understand that they need to be as positive as they can. That’s when your faith really steps in. That’s when you have to press through, say a little prayer and just get over it. The kids are watching you; they’re listening to everything you say. So by being positive, you help them to be positive, too.  If you want to scream or be a vigilante, do so–but just not in front of your kids.


How do you create a sense of normalcy for your girls?

I take them to get pedicures. We go to basketball practice. Felicia has a twin brother, and we have an older child as well, so we make sure that we are attentive to all of our children. Felicia can’t go outside if the temperatures rises about 90 degrees. She told the kids at school she had asthma. I told her not to be ashamed of who she is and to tell them that she can’t go outside because she has beautiful skin that she doesn’t want to mess up!


Jayla and Felicia were both born with a genetic disorder called neurofibromatosis type 1, or NF1. Not only does the disorder cause tumors to grow on the nerves, but it also may cause heart problems, high blood pressure and developmental delays. Right now, the girls are doing well. At the time of the interview, they wore ruffle socks instead of braces on their legs. They talked about their love for St. Jude’s and receiving stickers from their doctors. Despite the disease, they acted like ordinary kids. Perhaps the disease makes them extraordinary. They put on a smile and visit St. Jude, which they say is like a circus at times.According to Elnora, some weeks are better than others. But everyday, one thing remains the same. She remains in prayer.    Hey DFTM Fam–Where do you find your strength to get up each day and overcame obstacles, fears and perhaps illnesses? 

About The Author

Vlog Mom/DFTM Creator

Not long ago, Heather Hopson hosted a television show in the Cayman Islands. Today, she's back home writing a different kind of story as a new mom. In her 15 years working as a professional journalist, this by far is her best assignment! Growing up, she dreamed of becoming Oprah Winfrey. She was the features editor for her school’s newspaper and a teen talk show host for her city’s most popular radio station. She went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in Journalism from Michigan State University. After graduation, she worked as a television producer and reporter at CBS, NBC and Fox affiliates throughout the U.S. Instead of heading to Chicago to join Ms. Winfrey on her set, she bought a plane ticket to the Cayman Islands instead. She arrived five days before a category five hurricane! She lived in paradise for seven years, hosted an award-winning television show and traveled the globe with a government delegation. She also served on the board of directors for Big Brothers Big Sisters and spearheaded a Send a Kid to Camp campaign. Then, she relocated to Washington, D.C. to obtain a teaching certification and instruct 8th grade reading at a high needs middle school. She later returned to her hometown of Pittsburgh, PA to raise her daughter Caitlynn, now 4-years-old. During her 10-month-stint as a stay-at-home mom, Caitlynn inspired her to create this blog, and Diary of a First Time Mom was born on Mother’s Day 2012. Two years later, she expanded the family to include 20+ writers. Currently, Heather serves as the communications director at Allies for Children. In addition, she is the owner of Motor Mouth Multimedia, which ranked #49 in Startup Nation’s Home-Based 100 Competition sponsored by Discover Card and Sam’s Club. Recently, The Pittsburgh Foundation and The Heinz Endowments selected Heather to receive an Emerging Black Artist award to develop Diary of a First Time Mom.

3 Responses

  1. G K

    What a humbling article and a strong family — especially mom. Said a prayer for this family.

    • newmom0608

      Yes, you will definitely be humbled. I don’t feel sorry for her though. She wouldn’t want that. Instead, I feel empowered to support charities such as St. Jude.

  2. Janeane Davis

    This was an interesting article. This mother does so much each day. It is an inspiration to those of us who don’t have all those challenges to stop complaining about all we do and start going about the business of being good moms.


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