On a Mission for Children: West Monroe teen one of dozens getting treated at St. Jude

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. - Music is more than life-blood at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital  -- whether it comes in visits from such top artists as Pop Evil or  Goo Goo Dolls, or a therapist's acoustic guitar marking the Pomp & Circumstance of patients' graduation from kindergarten to first grade.

For 15-year-old Corbin -- a sophomore at West Monroe High School -- a pain in his arm while playing his own guitar was the first sign it was more than sore muscles.

"We were just swept, swept off our feet for lack of a better term, because we were living life," Corbin's father Clint told NBC 10 News.  "We didn't expect we'd have to contend with anything like this again."

Corbin had beaten cancer at age 3, thanks to treatment at St. Jude.

In February, the diagnosis came:  Bone Cancer.

In June, surgery to remove the tumor.  In mid-October, we found Corbin back at St. Jude, undergoing chemotherapy to make sure the surgeons got it all.

"They hook me up to a machine and it pumps the medicine and fluids in," Corbin said.  "Hope you don't get sick, that's about it. It's pretty gross."

Treatment has taken the hair that had been thicker than Elvis in his prime.  But hair grows back.

Facebook Prayer Page -- a play on words -- speaks more to his musician's resolve, and to the faith of his family and friends.  It's titled No Frets For Corbin.

Father Clint knew he needn't pose what he asked when Corbin first walked through St. Jude's doors a dozen years ago.

"Do they take our insurance," Clint had asked of a Doctor. "And he kind of smiled and said ' that's not something you have to worry about.'"

"What do we do? Where do we stay? How do we eat? All those things are taken care of and provided for by Saint Jude while we're up here."

Such is true for more than 7500 children and teenagers  St. Jude treats every year. But free is far from cheap.

Last year,  St Jude spent almost $390 million for direct patient care, and almost $360 million for research, according to financial filings.  

Keeping hope alive at the hospital named for Christianity's patron Saint of the Hope and Impossible Causes costs $2.6 million per day. Three-quarters of those dollars come from private donations, not grants or insurance reimbursements.  An investment porfolio valued at more than $3.1 billion provides room for growth, and a cushion should an economic downturn cause donations to fall short.

But a chance to win the home of your dreams could help St. Jude to treatment more children whom cancer has stricken -- a buy a chance to find cures.

"We look at every ticket sold as treatment, care, travel expenses, a place to live, "Clint said.

Since early August, the 2018 St. Jude Dream Home has been going up Monroe's Bayou Trace Subdivision, off Highway 165 near Sterlington.  It has four bedrooms, three bathrooms,

a luxurious master suite and an open floor plan.  It's set to be finished in April.

Tickets go on sale in January: $100 apiece.  Only 7500 will be sold, and all proceeds will go directly to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.  The winner will be announced in a live drawing on NBC 10's sister station, KARD Fox 14 in April. 

In the coming months, you'll meet another young man who's in the fight  of his life -- battling a brain tumor. He's put college on hold. But this computer science prodigy is determined that his dreams of attending the Massachusetts Insititute of Technology (MIT)  and rowing crew, will be delayed rather than denied.

We'll be tracking Corbin too. His guitar work already has won a starring role in a video feature for St. Jude, to debut on its YouTube channel shortly.  And his  No Fretpage on Facebook

includes a photo with a performer who knows a bit about bass guitar;  formerBeatle and Wings legend Sir Paul McCartney.

Treatment has been more tedious than painful, Corbin said. "Luckily, it's been easy for me. I've been doing some physical therapy on my arm.  Mostly, it's just having to be up here and be away from everything back home."

But likely, not for much longer.  As of the time of our visit, Corbin had three weeks of chemotherapy left.   He should be home for a break, come Thanksgiving.

Comfortable behind a guitar, he's soft-spoken on camera.  Asked how he was feeling--and what his message is for his friends in the Ark-La-Miss -- his hands did the talking.

Thumbs up.

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