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St. Jude doctor gives Colorado woman “second chance at life”

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FOX31 Denver is teaming up with St. Jude Children's Research Hospital to raise money for cancer treatment and research.

Treatment and research that gave a Colorado woman a second chance at life.

Sarah Ford's doctor cured her of cancer when she was 9 years old, but that`s not all he did. He made her a very special promise.

For the kids suffering life threatening illnesses at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, it may be hard for them to believe that sometimes life can come full circle, but Sarah is living proof.

Every single child at St. Jude is given extra special attention. It`s heaven on earth. It makes an unbearable situation bearable and survivable.

These children are in the fight for their lives, and some of the young patients develop special bonds with their doctors.

“I remember seeing my doctor for the first time," Sarah said. "Tugging on my dad's pants."  

Sarah was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia in 1985 when she was just two-and-a-half-years old. She had 50-50 chance of survival.

"I was definitely too young to know what was going on. I knew something was wrong, I wasn't feeling well.”

Sarah spent seven years being treated at St. Jude. Her main oncologist was Doctor Gaston Rivera.

"What I always remembered was that she was one of the most beautiful patients I have ever had," said Dr. Rivera.

"He told my parents that day that they didn't need to be scared," Sarah said. "He was going to take care of me and he would be dancing at my wedding."

But the treatment at the time was risky. There were chances of infection.

"I remember chemotherapy," she said.  “I remember hating it. I remember feeling scared that I would go to the hospital to feel when normally you go to the hospital to get better."

Dr. Rivera said he was always optimistic about Sarah`s prognosis.

"I always felt Sarah was showing the signs of the patient that was responding well to the treatment, and therefore the hopes for cure were very high," the doctor said.

And then, seven years into their journey together Sarah got the good news.

“He looked at my mom and said, “Sarah is c-u-r-e-d. She is cured.” It was such a wonderful moment in my life.”

Remember that promise Dr. Rivera made? Well, 27 years later, he showed up at Sarah`s wedding and danced with her.

“He did. We dance,” Sarah said. “June 4th, 2011.”

But Sarah`s story doesn`t end there. In many ways, it`s just the beginning.

She is happily married, has a great career and works at the St. Jude fundraising offices here in Colorado.

“It`s a dream come true, really a dream come true,” she says. “I think I am working for the kids that don`t make it…that need to make it. I`m able to give back what was given to me.”

St Jude saved her life. She says it was like her second home and will always be a part of her life.

Sarah is still part of research programs at St. Jude where they look at long term effects of cancer and chemotherapy.. She says research is the key to what they do in saving kids today and in the future.

FOX31 Denver is teaming up with St. Jude. You can help—and you could get a brand new house at the same time.

We're raffling tickets for one hundred dollars for a brand new home being built in Castle Rock.

Your donation goes to support St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.

Click here to get your ticket or call St. Jude at 1- 800- 276-7695