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St. Jude Dream Home Giveaway raises money to help kids battling cancer, like Palm Desert teen Natalie Tanner

For the past few years, KESQ has highlighted a local Palm Desert teen, Natalie Tanner, who was diagnosed with brain cancer as a baby.

But after treatment at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital and yearly checkups, Natalie is now 17 years old and giving the world a run for its money. 

"I really like Xavier High School, and I've been involved in the drumline, the Xavier drumline," said Natalie.

Natalie is busy these days, as a part of the high school's drumline. She also volunteers at the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens and plays the trumpet in jazz band. 

Her mother, Kristen Tanner, said it is a dream to see Natalie thrive at this age.

"There is definitely a lot of breath holding through this journey. You live MRI to MRI," said Kristen. 

Kristen is a long time nurse at Eisenhower Desert Orthopedic Center, and 17 years ago, an overwhelming diagnosis for her baby daughter, meant she'd be trading one hospital at work – for another – in her off-time. 

"She's the hardest worker I know when it comes to therapies that she had to do and now to school," said Kristen.

Natalie was given a less than 20 percent chance of survival when she was diagnosed with medulloblastoma, an aggressive brain tumor, as a newborn. 

It could have turned out differently. 

"The chemotherapy would be highly toxic on her little body. So one of the suggestions was to just take her home and make her comfortable and enjoy her. And at the time, i just couldn't bear the thought of doing that," said Kristen.

So, Natalie's parents kept looking for answers. And they found it at St Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee.

"We chose to go there because they have this treatment protocol in place. I thought we were going to lose Natalie, and I wanted her life to mean something. I wanted her life to at least help other children that would be diagnosed with brain tumors as well. And so that was was what drove me to go to St. Jude," said Kristen.

Natalie's parents packed up their household and spent the next eight months in Memphis for Natalie's grueling treatments.

"We walked in through the front doors of the hospital, and it was quiet. It was after hours, but we were immediately met by a team ready to just take us in, and you could feel the support," said Kristen.

It was support that surprised Kristen. On top of the usual oncologists and doctors who came by to see them, Kristen also met with social workers and child life specialists who focused on Natalie's older brother and his mental health.

And the more remarkable thing? St. Jude covers the cost of the treatment for its patients – and more.

"The way they helped with the financial part was by supplying our housing for the time we were there with Natalie, providing us with meal cards for the cafeteria gift, cards for the grocery store, covering all of her expenses during that time while she was there. When we first arrived at St. Jude, I had no idea all that would be covered for her care," Kristen.

The St. Jude medical model has been praised as an exceptional one – especially in America's expensive and stressful medical billing system. It's why the St. Jude Dream Home Giveaway, featuring a new home in La Quinta for 2024, is crucial in fundraising money – so families don't have to worry about bills and can focus on helping their child live.

"She just does not give up in anything she does. And I think that's a lot of what got her through this," said Kristen.

Call 800-535-6748 to reserve your ticket for only $100 and help St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital® continue its life-saving work.

Article Topic Follows: Dream Home

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Angela Chen

Angela comes to the Coachella Valley as KESQ’s morning anchor after teaching graduate school classes at the USC Annenberg School of Journalism and Communication. Learn more about Angela here.


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