Back in the late 1980s, young Joel Alsup, a 7-year-old from Chattanooga, was diagnosed with Osteosarcoma at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, which would result in the amputation of his right arm.
In 1991, 10-year-old Lindsey Wilkerson from Crane, Mo. was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia at the same hospital.
The two frightened children overcame childhood cancer to become friends, best friends, then husband and wife.
Our families would actually sit in the waiting room and visit while she was in treatment and I was coming back for checkups,” Joel says.
I don’t think they even knew each other’s names then. We had no idea where it would end,” said Lindsey’s mother.

Joel and Lindsey actually first really got to know one another in 1993, after they had both already completed their treatments at St. Jude; they crossed paths at St. Jude functions, doctor appointments and such. Lindsey had a crush on Joel early on, but Joel didn’t talk much in those days.
Eventually, their paths diverged – Joel went off to college at Middle Tennessee State University and Lindsey to the University of Central Arkansas. Lindsey married and had two children, Audrey and Jacob.
About 15 years ago, Lindsey realised her dream of returning to Memphis to work for St. Jude as a liaison in the ALSAC Liaison Office. During her orientation she was taken around to meet people and told there was someone in particular she might want to meet – it was Joel, who was already working there as a video production supervisor for ALSAC.
The friendship was rekindled, and over time that platonic friendship morphed into something more between Joel and Lindsey, whose first marriage ended in 2015.
After watching the movie “Alien” at Joel’s home back in 2016, he finally declared his love for her, and Lindsey of course reciprocated these feelings.
It was not long before Joel (38) and Lindsey (37), started discussing wedding plans, and where else would they get married but in the city where their courage was tested and in and with which they fell in love…
We started thinking, ‘So, what day of the week is 901 Day in 2018?” Lindsey said. “Saturday? That’s perfect. That was also the first day of National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, so we knew there was something special at work.
Joel says his goal wasn’t always to move back there and work for ALSAC/St like Lindsey’s was, but that about halfway through college he realised that this was what he wanted to do.
Joel’s parents have a special place in their hearts for St. Jude and Memphis as well.
St. Jude is a powerful tool in the hand of God,” said Bob Alsup, “bringing hope to all moms and dads for their children and miracles to many.”
In the middle of my deepest, darkest fears, St. Jude was my calming place,” noted Lota Alsup, Joel’s mother. “It was where I could breathe, where I could hope. I didn’t need or expect guarantees. I just knew that St. Jude was our best shot, the reassurance that the most that could be done was being done.”
Lindsey said, “I fell in love with Memphis from the very beginning. When I first came here, all I could dream of was going home. But somewhere during treatment, the definition of home kind of evolved. It would be things like, we would go out to dinner (when she was a patient) and then, mysteriously, our bill had already been paid for. There was one time our car broke down, and someone had it towed to the local dealership and the repairs were paid for. You can’t find that many places.”
Joel and Lindsey got married on 901 Day, Sept. 1, in the gold-domed Danny Thomas/ALSAC pavilion on the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital campus.
On choosing the pavilion – where St. Jude founder Danny Thomas and wife Rose Marie Mantell Thomas are laid to rest – Joel said, “That was the easy part. This is hallowed ground.”
Added Lindsey:”It’s a city that captured my soul. It’s a town like us – been through a lot, but loves really hard, works really hard and plays really hard. It’s a city where you get second chances.”

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