Tulsa woman receives support from St. Jude throughout her life

TULSA, Okla. — A Tulsa woman talked to FOX23 about the care she received from St. Jude as a teenager, and has continued to receive throughout her life.

FOX23 first met Shagah Zakerion in 2016, ten years after her bone marrow transplant at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

“It’s pretty brutal. I lost all my hair, lost almost 40 pounds,” said Shagah.

The cost of her life saving transplant was $1.2 million dollars, but her family never paid a dime.

St. Jude not only paid for treatment at their hospital in Memphis, but provided housing, transportation and meals.

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Shagah said St. Jude saved her life as an 18-year-old, and then again a decade later when she relapsed.

“I didn’t know I was sick. I didn’t know my counts were changing, and it was my ten year visit,” said Shagah. “It was my last visit before they make you an alumni that they found it, and I would not be here, no doubt, if I had waited one month longer.”

As an adult, she’s had to navigate leukemia treatment on her own at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.

“There’s so many burdens that come around cancer care, having done it as a child, and having done it as an adult,” said Shagah. “They lifted those burdens from the family. They lifted the burdens of the financial obligations, the travel, of the lodging, of the just having the details sorted for you so all you had to do—all my mom, and my dad, and my siblings had to do—was get me through treatment, support me, support each other.”

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Shagah faced another relapse in 2019, and completed an almost unheard of third bone marrow transplant. Doctors once again used cells from her mother, Pary, who was by her side at St. Jude and told us in 2017 there’s no place like it.

“St. Jude made it very easy. I had peace of mind knowing they have our backs,” said Pary.

“She’s been my caregiver every time I’ve been sick,” said Shagah of her mother.

“I’m really grateful to say I’m two years out now, and I’m in remission,” said Shagah. “It’s been 17 years since I had my treatment at St. Jude and I’m still here. I’m still fundraising for them and I’m still advocating for what they do, because what they do is so crucial and important.”

Shagah said monthly treatments can zap her energy, so she takes full advantage of the days she’s feeling good and strong.