“We were on vacation in Florida. I had a fever that would not break, unexplained bruising, and extreme fatigue every time I went outside in the heat,” said 19-year-old Tori from Pekin, IL.
Tori was 5 days away from moving into college. Instead, in August 2016, Tori began treatment for ALL, Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia, high risk. The first 263 days of treatment, Tori and her mother Tonya spent 141 at the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Memphis (RMHC Memphis). “My mom is my hero because my whole life she has given up things for me. She took off work and stayed with me every trip we had to make to Memphis,” Tori said.
Tonya said that Tori was expecting a roommate with whom she could share clothes and hang out. “She got a roommate, but it was me. We feel the Ronald McDonald House is just like a dorm. She enjoyed the community living and activities that the house offered.”
Tori said, “My favorite part of the House is how welcoming the staff is. If you ever need something, they will stop what they are doing to help.”
Tonya said, “Sherri (Director of House Operations) is always focused on working and running the house. We got to know her and along with another family we would ask if we could cause trouble. It became a joke every time we passed her office.”
“Tori loved the candy bowl at the front desk. She would stop by it everyday before and/or after her appointments, not for the candy, but for the Laffy Taffy jokes. She thought they were so funny and most of the time they were not,” said Tonya.
Tori met a 15-year-old girl from West Virginia named Lindsey. They became best friends and talk every day. Lindsey is on the radiation side of treatment, and Tori is on the chemo side. They make each other stronger and are learning how different the two treatments are.
At the House, Tori and Tonya loved the rocking chairs and sat in them every morning, waiting for the shuttle. Tori really liked going to the House pantry because when she was on certain medicines, she was always hungry. Tori enjoyed the House’s 25th year Celebration, seeing the decorated Christmas trees, decorating her room door, hiding Easter Eggs, participating in teen activities, watching movies, and taking 3rd place in the RMHC Memphis Bad Dog 5K.
Tonya said, “We did not really understand what RMHC was all about before we arrived. RMHC Memphis has really thought of everything to make the House feel like your home. I will never forget everything the House has done for our family when we were so scared about the needs and future of Tori.”
“I would love to be an algebra teacher or a Child Life specialist and I never want to forget all the amazing people we have met at this House, ” Tori concludes.