5 years ago in a Sunday school class in Louisiana, Julianne and Hailey met for the first time. No one knew then that they would go on to be best friends and would eventually be growing up together in the Ronald McDonald House of Memphis.
Both girls are 12 years old and undergoing radiation. Julianne is from Watson, LA and has a Glioma brain tumor. 20 miles away, Hailey is from Walker, LA and has Ewing’s Sarcoma.
While Julianne was diagnosed long before Hailey, Hailey started radiation first for her bone cancer. Doctors found Julianne’s inoperable brain tumor when she was almost five years old and watched her for 7 years. They wanted Julianne to start radiation for the first time this year.
Julianne’s mother Stacey shared, “All this time, Hailey and her mom, Dawn, learned a lot about St Jude from us because we had been going for 7 years. We knew there was a possibility that we would have treatment at some point which would be radiation but we never knew when it was going to happen. Then, Hailey started chemo and radiation first. So Hailey was able to share with Julianne what radiation was about before she started. They were able to talk about what they are going through together but also be there for each other because we are away from home. Julianne and Hailey have each other to go through it together. And Dawn and I have each other and our husbands have each other.“
Hailey got to the Ronald McDonald House 5 weeks before Julianne. Hailey said, “Julianne since day one, she has been there when I am down, making me smile. Our friendship is more like sisters, we don’t fight, we get along, we love each other.” Hailey described Julianne as “caring, helpful, and sweet.”
Julianne said, “Being with Hailey is my favorite thing about this house. She inspires me and is my hero. She is always there for me and is my supporter.” Julianne described Hailey as “funny, supportive, and caring.”
While living in the Ronald McDonald House, the girls enjoy playing on the swings outside, being in the teen room where they can meet lots of people, and playing pool and Pacman.
Hailey especially likes the living room, the kitchen, and the playroom and says, “I like how they supply all kinds of snacks and foods.”
Stacey was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis last year and her husband had to take off work to help. She explained, “This is a difficult journey so it is nice not having to worry about having a roof over our heads. As a parent, you just get to sit and get to know the other families which you can do a little over at the hospital but there you are from appointment to appointment. Here you can connect more with the other parents and the other kids too, get to know each other’s stories and be there for each other.”
Dawn added, “Ronald McDonald House is way better than having to stay in a hotel room especially when you have to be here a longer time. The space here - it helps. You can’t worry and doubt, you have to stay strong and get through it. They have their moments of bad times but the kids are always smiling and trying to lift each other up.
Hailey said to the Ronald McDonald House of Memphis, “Thank you for all the support you have given to my family and everybody else. What you give is what we really need.”