HATTIESBURG, Miss. (April 26, 2021) Earlier this month, Forrest General Volunteer Ambassador Clancy Slay, dressed in her green blazer and a big smile behind her mask, made her rounds delivering mail and greeting employees and guests with a joyful, “Hello. Have a good day!”
Slay, a sophomore at the University of Southern Mississippi where she is the Make-A-Wish liaison for her Chi Omega sorority, is also a cancer survivor. On Sunday, April 11, she was on the receiving end of a big surprise from Make-A-Wish Mississippi. Held at the Ogletree House on the USM campus, Slay’s fellow Chi-Omega sisters tricked her into attending a “Wish” honoring herself. In attendance were family members and friends, including some of those who helped push her forward during those difficult days surrounding her diagnosis.
The room was filled with balloons, Chi-O members in Make-A-Wish T-shirts and lots of happy tears. As a 17-year-old high school student from Quitman, Slay was diagnosed with Stage 2 Hodgkin’s lymphoma. For three months, she underwent chemotherapy at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis. She completed her treatments on her mother’s birthday, the day she entered remission. At the time she made her wish back then (children with a terminal illness and not yet 18 years old are allowed to make a wish), she asked to visit Rome and Venice. Once the COVID-19 pandemic entered, she was asked to change her wish, which had to be granted by the time she was 21. Her new wish included technological items to help her further her education and have all the technology she needed. On Sunday, she was gifted with an iPad, a new computer and other items. And while all of the gifts from Make-A-Wish Mississippi were great, “the biggest gift was just being there with all of my loved ones and seeing how much they supported me,” Slay said. “That made me feel so happy.”
During Sunday’s event, there was a letter reading by some of Slay’s closest friends — one from high school who was with her during her initial diagnosis; a friend from her study abroad semester last year, which was cut short by COVID, and a current friend. “These were friends from all of the different stages of my life coming together for me,” she said. “I know that even if they hadn’t been there when I was going through treatment, they would have still supported me. They’ve taught me the true meaning of friendship — having people who love and care for you in your life by doing all of that for me. I felt so special and loved.”
Slay is a healthcare marketing major. She’d like to go to graduate school for healthcare administration and possibly work her way up the hospital ranks. “I’m really passionate about helping people, and I think one day I might could work on implementing hospital policies to advocate for the level of care that patients need and deserve when they are being taken care of,” she said. “My entire life I’ve wanted to go into the medical field. When I was cared for at St. Jude, and even working here at Forrest General, seeing the level of care given to all the patients, that’s what they deserve. They deserve to be treated with empathy and passion.” Slay saw that level of care while at St. Jude, and she’s seen it during her time at Forrest General. It makes me really passionate about it.
In her second year as a FGH Ambassador, Slay has spent this semester with Patient Care Rounding. She makes her way around the hospital’s different floors and sticks her head in to deliver things to patients or visit with them. “I love being able to have conversations with patients here who may not have family to spend time with them,” she said. “These people just want someone to talk to, to sit down with them and have a genuine conversation, listen to them and hear what they have to say. It’s not only made my experience as an Ambassador here at Forrest General, it’s made me realize so much about life in general. The patients here are older and wiser than I am, and they can share with me all of this experience they’ve had in their lives. That affords me the opportunity to see how I can apply this valuable information and experience to my life and better myself as a person.”