Wednesday, August 20 2014 5:43 AM EDT2014-08-20 09:43:48 GMT
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MEMPHIS, TN -
(WMC) - Felicia and Jayla are known throughout St. Jude for their laughter, energy and enthusiastic hugs. Both were diagnosed with optic nerve glioma at ages 3 and 4.
"Very unexpected. No warning signs, anything like that," Jayla's mother, Elnora Blackledge, at Target House in Midtown said.
Jayla is now 10. Both girls went in for eye checkups when doctors saw brain tumors.
The family lives in Memphis and knew the best treatment was in their own backyard.
"We do scans every three to six months. They're on medications every morning. I'm at St. Jude four out of five days a week," said Elnora.
Blackledge and her husband, Frederick, were astounded when they learned they would not have any out-of-pocket expenses for treatment at St. Jude.
"I've been able to take care of my children, be there for them, walk with them, talk with them, be right there by their side without worrying about how am I gonna pay for something depending on the diagnosis," said Elnora. St. Jude has taken 99 percent of the load off, which is like whew, I can do this."
But Elnora's worries are far from over. Her youngest daughter is now being treated for the same condition as her older sisters.
And as if that were not enough, Elnora was diagnosed with Hodgekins Lymphoma and had to deal with her own cancer while her three girls were receiving treatment.
"I had it in three spots on my neck, in my chest area, and on my back. Everything stage two and three," she said.
Thankfully Elnora is doing much better and able to focus on her three children, still receiving treatment at St. Jude. She says the generous support from hospital staff, doctors and donors helps her keep a positive attitude.
"There are more good days than bad. But every once in a while you hope, are praying that they get through this. Those milestones that we take for granted, you know? Sixteenth birthday, your sweet 16. Or, you know, you're turning into a teenager, those things you pray for. But I'm very optimistic. They're my inspiration," she said.
Doctors say a genetic condition lead to the girls' brain tumors. The two oldest are in remission. The youngest is getting the best treatment possible at St. Jude.
One way to help save lives at St. Jude is to purchase a ticket for the Dream Home Giveaway. A winner is drawn Sunday. Follow the link to buy a ticket or call 1-800-224-6681.
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