Elvis' Love For My Dying Child | 8-year-old Denise Sanchez 'On Tour' 1972

By: Elvis Australia
Source: FECC | The Fool
January 20, 2018

Many Elvis fans will know the story of Denise Sanchez, the 8-year-old fan from Santa Fe who we saw in an outtake from 'Elvis On Tour'. Denise had been battling cancer (Leukaemia) since the age of 6 and, like her mom was a huge Elvis fan. Denise had already lost a leg and part of a hip to cancer, and doctors could do no more to help after it had spread to her lungs.

With the help of the local paper, her mom Trudi was able to get tickets for that concert in Albuquerque on April 19, 1972, and an opportunity to meet Elvis backstage before the show.

The meeting was to give her one last happy memory and at the show that night, Elvis sang 'Love Me Tender' -- her request -- and then dedicated 'You Gave Me A Mountain' to her.

Photographers and MGM 'On Tour' cameras were there to capture a deeply special moment. (The film is available unofficially, it was not used in the movie).

Denise would lose her fight barely four months later, but it has recently been uncovered that she did have another bright moment before saying goodbye: she was able to attend another Elvis concert.

Denise's story reached Photoplay that summer, in a first-person account from her mom (We have the full article below). And it seems that Mr. and Mrs. Larry Miller, a couple in Daly City, California, read the magazine, and were so moved they reached out to Trudi to find out if her brave little daughter would like to see Elvis in Las Vegas, their treat. 'Did she ever', said her mother. So little Denise was able to watch Elvis again, one weekend in early August at the Las Vegas Hilton! A dream came true: TWICE.

The story of Denise Sanchez is but one of countless moments where Elvis' generosity of spirit and kindness are so very apparent. Major stars often have these kind of backstage experiences but, somehow, the ones we know about with Elvis Presley seem even more special. This is the kind of thing he did all the time, not just when the cameras were rolling. Her story also reminds all of us to appreciate every moment of life. Denise always did.

Elvis' Love For My Dying Child

Mrs. Trudi Sanchez
as told to Rose Perlberg
Photoplay, August 1972

We found the cancer in my little girl Christmas time a year ago It started with a tumor on the leg. At the Anderson Medical Center in Houston, Texas, they tried desperately to save her by removing the leg and part of her hip. But just like it had been with her daddy, there seemed to be no way they could halt the awful disease.

The doctors told me that, with luck, I could have here for another year. Denise was then going on seven.

The next year was a nightmare of drug therapy and pain and hospitals as the doctors used every tool known to medical science to keep the cancer from ravaging my baby. But just last June it showed up in her lungs, and since that time, it has been relentlessly spreading through her. At the beginning of this year, they took her off the chemotherapy, except for pain pills every four hours, and they let me take her home to Santa Fe. We just take it day by day. We don't plan very far in advance.

Of course, I'll do anything within my power to give her any little bit of happiness I can.

Elvis Presley Video 8-year-old Denise Sanchez with Elvis Presley 'On Tour' 1972 (03:07)

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Last April the most wonderful thing happened – it was like a dream come true. I'm so grateful to all the people who made it possible that I'd like to share the whole fantastic event with you.

Let me say first that Denise just turned eight last March 31, mentally she's very mature; she's like a 13-year-old. He bedroom is literally wallpapered with magazine photos of her favorite movie stars and singers. At the top of her list is Elvis Presley.

Probably that's because I've been an Elvis fan since he first started when I was turning into a teenager. I've always played his records, and we've gone to all the Elvis movies. From certain songs and certain movies, Denise just adores him. While she was under treatment at the medical center in Houston, we made friends down there who are really big Elvis fans, so her liking him just grew and grew.

Just after we got to Houston, she found out that Elvis had made an appearance there just a few weeks before and she was fit to be tied! Then last November, she was hospitalized there and he was going to give a concert on the twelfth. We had gotten the tickets weeks in advance and she was terribly excited at the thought of seeing him. But at the last minute, she was put on the critical list and there was no way I could take here. That poor baby was so disappointed! She's incredibly brave about all the pain she suffers, but she just cried her little heart out over missing Elvis.

She pulled through the critical stage, thank god, and soon after, they stopped the chemotherapy and let me take her home. When we found out that Elvis was coming to Albuquerque, which is about an hours drive from our home in Santa Fe, I think I bought the first tickets they had on sale.

Then Denise asked if there was any way she could meet Elvis personally. I said I didn't know, but I'd sure try to arrange it. Frankly, I didn't think it was possible, but I was determined to make every effort because I knew she wanted this more than anything in the world.

My girlfriend and I went to Albuquerque to see if we could find someone who could arrange a meeting with Elvis. At first, it was terribly discouraging. We talked with a lot of people who might have been in a position to help, but we got nowhere. Apparently, they thought we were just making up a very dramatic story because so many people want to meet Elvis, and I suppose they'll use any ruse.

Elvis Presley and Denise Sanchez.
Elvis Presley and Denise Sanchez.

Then some suggested we go to the newspaper there. The 'Albuquerque Journal', and explain the situation. I told the editor, 'Anything you can do will be greatly appreciated because we aren't going to have her very long'. At the Journal they said they would do everything they could and the editor assigned a reporter, Grace Marie, Prather, to help us. She pulled it all together - and it was really something! We didn't know until five o'clock the afternoon of the concert that we were definitely going to meet Elvis.

I talked to Miss Prather early that morning, before I left for work. It was Wednesday, April 19. So far she hasn't been able to accomplish anything. She had a call into Colonel Parker (Elvis' manager) and he was to call her back, and then she'd called me with whatever news, I went to work but my mind sure wasn't on it.

I told Denise, 'Honey, we're really trying, but don't get your hopes up, because I am not all that sure we'll be able to meet him.

'That's OK Mom', she said. 'I'm still going to keep praying'. And by gosh she really prayed. She's a very determined little girl. She wanted this so much she prayed her little heart out. She just asked to please be able to meet Elvis no matter what. That was all she wanted; that was all she cared about.

We had thought we might not be able to make it to the concert because a few days earlier she had a very bad day. But she said 'mama, I'm going to go', no matter what'. And she would have too. And I would have taken her.

By Wednesday, though, she was feeling much better, and now the big concern was, Would we be able to meet Elvis?

Colonel Parker at first indicated that it seemed pretty impossible because Elvis was coming to town right before the show and he would be leaving immediately afterward. Then I guess Miss Prather told him our story in detail, explaining how really important this was to Denise. The Colonel promised her he would do everything he could.

Miss Prather phoned me at work to say that Colonel Parker was due into the Hilton Hotel in Albuquerque around four o'clock that afternoon and we ought to be there just in case it was good news. I left work early and Denise and I and my younger daughter, Paula, and my two best friends, Emma and Belinda Cantu, drove to Albuquerque. Denise and I met Miss Prather at the Hilton.

We waited around in the lobby until Colonel Parker came in. Miss Prather introduced him to us and he patted Denise on the head and smiled and assured her, 'You'll get to see him'.

From there everything else was sort of an ecstatic blur.

Elvis Presley and Denise Sanchez.
Elvis Presley and Denise Sanchez.

Colonel Parker's aids told Miss Prather and I to take Denise to the right side of the stage during intermission and they would take here into Elvis' dressing room.

When we got to Tingley Coliseum, where the concert was to be held, there was another surprise. I had bought box seats, but Colonel Parker instructed the Coliseum people to build special seats for us in the middle of the aisle, right in front of the stage. That was Denise could see absolutely everything. I thought that was just wonderful, and something they didn't have to do.

But Denise was so excited at the prospect of actually meeting Elvis that she hardly paid attention to the first half of the show. She couldn't sit still; She kept asking, 'Mama, is it time yet'.

She was all dressed up for Elvis ... even though we didn't know for sure if we would be able to meet him. She wanted to look her prettiest just in case her prayers were answered.

I was so proud of her that day; but then, I have been all along. From the moment we first learned about the cancer, she's been a little trouper. She's just an exceptional child. She's not spoiled, she asks for so little. And there's so much I wish I could give her ... because it's been through her that I have been able to get as far as I have. It's been through her strength that I've gotten mine.

I smile on the outside, but I'm breaking down inside. She's kept me going. She's got so much energy, such strength, such faith. If you were to see her, you'd never know anything was wrong; she's such a strong active child. She accepts her fate; she's not at all afraid. She says simply, 'When Jesus needs me I have to go to heaven'. She's ready. Which is more than a lot of us could say.

We take each day as it comes and each day she keeps busy. When she's feeling up to it, she goes to school; otherwise, she stays at home with my aunt while I'm at work. In the evening I help her with her math or her spelling. She never broods or feels sorry for herself. On the days when she feels good, she says, 'Well if Jesus doesn't need me in heaven when I get big I'm going to be a nurse.

But that Wednesday evening, sitting there in Tingley Coliseum, she had only one thought in mind. Finally, intermission came. Emma and Denise and Miss Prather and I made our way to the right side of the stage, as we had been instructed. Denise was on her crutches, she maneuvers very well with them. Berlinda stayed in the audience with Paula, who is six.

At first, they told us that only Denise and Miss Prather would be allowed into Elvis' dressing room, but when we got to the backstage trailer that they have for the performers, they escorted me and my girlfriend in, too!

All I can say is Elvis was even more than I had expected - and I knew he would be marvelous. He was so warm and friendly with Denise - with all of us. It was just beautiful.

When Denise came into the trailer, he smiled at her - a real smile, not the take-a-picture kind, and he said, 'Hello Sweetheart', just as warm and friendly as if he'd known her all her life. Her little face lit up like I don't know what.

He gave her a careful hug - obviously, they'd told him of her condition - and he kissed her on the cheek.

From there on, she was floating. She was so excited, she could hardly talk. But she managed better than I probably would have, under the circumstances. She had a huge poster of him that they gave us at the Hilton and she asked him to autograph it. He carefully inscribed, To Denise - Love you! Elvis Presley. Needless to say, that poster has a place of honor in our den.

She asked how Priscilla and Lisa were, and he said fine and made little chit-chat with her in this wonderfully warm, easy manner. We weren't in there very long, but every second was a thrill for all of us.

Elvis turned to me, shook hands, and let me introduce myself. He seemed very interested in me, which was truly more than I had anticipated. You know big stars like that, you don't expect them to have such a personal touch. He was just fantastic.

I only got a handshake -darn it! But my baby got a hug and a kiss, too ... so that was an added thrill.

Before she left him, she asked Elvis if he could sing a song for her. She wanted 'Love Me Tender' or 'Don't Cry Daddy', which are her two favorites. He said, Okay, I'm going to sing one for you, but it's going to be a surprise.

It surely was. When he got to that number, he announced from the stage, The next song is for Denise, a very special girl I have just met backstage'. And then he sang 'You Gave Me A Mountain'. And we all cried. It's a sad song, but so fitting.

But this time, Lord, you gave me a mountain,
A mountain I may never climb,
And it isn't a hill any longer,
You gave me a mountain this time.

When the show was over, Colonel Parker requested that the security police escort us out through the back of the stage, so Denise wouldn't have to wade through the crowds. There were 12,000 people in the Coliseum. We were out in no time, thanks to the Colonel's thoughtfulness. Everyone connected with Elvis was so considerate. It was wonderful.

Flustered and excited as we were, we somehow managed to make it back home, where the whole family - my parents and brothers and sisters and aunts and uncles - were eagerly awaiting word of the Big Adventure.

As I write this, it's a week later, and we still can't believe it really happened. We've gotten back to our daily routine, in that Denise has finally agreed to wash her face again. Wednesday night when we got home, I told her to wash up, because it was 'way past her bedtime, and she looked at me in horror. There was no way she was going to was the face that HE had kissed! The next morning she insisted, 'Oh no, Mama, not yet!' Finally, on the third day, she reluctantly applied soap and water.

But we're still floating; we're still in a dream world. The phone hasn't stopped ringing. All her friends that didn't hear about it personally read about Denise and Elvis in the Albuquerque and Santa Fe newspapers. And of course, word quickly got to her many friends in Houston. Everybody wanted to know, 'What did he look like? How was he? What did he say? Was he nice?'

I'm amazed that Denise has such total recall of the meeting. Back in Elvis' trailer, she was so excited I thought, she's not going to remember half of this. But she's remarkable. She remembered it in detail, He had on a white jumpsuit with a cape and a blue scarf and jewelry all over the place. What fascinated her most was the bracelet her wore that spelled out E-L-V-I-S in diamonds. She's been reliving those magic moments 20 times a day. She tells her friends how she had butterflies in her stomach and how she was shaking, how he had the prettiest blue eyes and every little, tiny detail. She's having a ball autographing the newspaper photos of Elvis and her ... and everyone who comes into the house is led into the den where they can respectfully gaze on that huge poster. No one, of course, is allowed to touch it.

The last thing she said about Elvis was that she loves him and she wants to marry him.

I work for the City of Santa Fe, and my boss right now is acting City Manager. He mentioned that he was going to talk with the Mayor about proclaiming a Denise Sanchez day here, which would be fantastic. He told me to kind of check with Denise to see if she would really like that, or what she wanted most. So we were sort of feeling her out without telling her what it was all about and we asked, 'What do you want more than anything? She promptly answered 'To marry Elvis, I love him'.

For myself, I can only say that I always thought Elvis was so great; I've been a super fan. But now I doubt that I could find the words to describe my feelings and my gratitude to him and to all the people who helped set up the meeting. They'll never know how much happiness they gave one little girl at the time she needed it most.

*** Denise would lose her fight barely four months later, but it has recently been uncovered that she did have another bright moment before saying goodbye: she was able to attend another Elvis concert. ***

Denise's story reached Photoplay that summer, in a first-person account from her mom (We have the full article below). And it seems that Mr. and Mrs. Larry Miller, a couple in Daly City, California, read the magazine, and were so moved they reached out to Trudi to find out if her brave little daughter would like to see Elvis in Las Vegas, their treat. 'Did she ever', said her mother. So little Denise was able to watch Elvis again, one weekend in early August at the Las Vegas Hilton! A dream came true: TWICE.

Elvis Presley on stage in Albuquerque | Wednesday, April 19, 1972.
Elvis Presley on stage in Albuquerque | Wednesday, April 19, 1972.

In Coma at St. Vincent Hospital
'Dreams Come True' Fading For Little Denise Sanchez

By Scott Beaven

Last April, the Journal ran a story about an 8-year-old girl named Denise Sanchez who had a dream come true: She got to see Elvis Presley when he performed in Albuquerque.

For Denise, there won't be any more 'dreams come true'. Wednesday she went into a coma at Santa Fe's St. Vincent Hospital and her mother says 'we could lose her anytime'.

DENISE IS suffering from terminal cancer, the same disease that claimed her lather some years ago. She will leave behind her mother, Mrs. Truddi Sanchez, and her six-year-old sister Paula. And a score of memories for both.

After the Journal story was picked up by United Press International, it eventually made its way into 'Photoplay' magazine where Mr. and Mrs. Larry Miller of San Jose, Calif heard about the little girl.

They decided she should see Elvis Presley again if she wanted to ('Did she ever', said her mother) and two weeks ago they took Denise and her mother to Las Vegas, Nev., for a weekend.

A DREAM come true. Twice. Shortly before the trip, Denise awoke one morning with paralysis on the left side of her body. 'They thought she had meningitis on top of everything else', Mrs. Sanchez said. 'But it turned out it was due to bleeding inside her brain from the cancer'.

Despite everything, Denise remained the happy little girl she is. 'She never let it get her down. She was still ecstatic about seeing Elvis again. She needed stronger pain relief and oxygen, though, so we had to put her in the hospital. She's on morphine now'.

WHEN DENISE is gone, Mrs. Sanchez faces a mounting collection of medical bills. She took a leave of absence from her job at Santa Fe's traffic engineering department to be with her daughter as much as possible.

'They were just great', Mrs. Sanchez said 'They are holding my job for me but they could only pay me so long and we don't have anything now. I'm afraid we have used everything we have'.

Persons wishing to contribute to the family may send checks payable to the 'Denise Sanchez Fund' in the care of Gary Williams, an officer at the Cordova Branch of the First National Bank of Santa Fe.

Original Concert Review

11,857 jam coliseum -- and Elvis wows 'em

Concert Date | April 19, 1972 Albuquerque, NM.
by Charles Wood
The Albuquerque Tribune
Review | April 20, 1972.

They sat inside Tingley Coliseum, 11,847 of them, many of them going to their first concert in years. They were young and old, superbly-dressed and shabbily-dressed. But all were interested in one man.

Here in 1957 'Elvis Presley', the man behind me said, 'Elvis the King.' Elvis, the best selling recording artist of all time, making his first appearance in Albuquerque since 1957 when he played second bill in the old armory.

His 26-piece band and chorus were cutting loose with the opening chords of '2001' when Elvis came on stage.

Bulbs flash

The applause was deafening. Camera flash bulbs popped from every part of the coliseum, creating the effect of a wild, psychedelic strobe light.

Elvis picked up a golden guitar and immediately went into a flashy rendition of 'C.C. Ryder' before the applause died down.

Elvis, now 37, looked like you'd expect a musical superstar to look.

White Suit

He wore a white, military-type suit with a baby blue cape. His shirt was open from the collar to his waist.

'It's been a long time since I was in Albuquerque. And it's fantastic to be back. I hope y'all enjoy the show.' Elvis said.

He went into 'Love Me Tender', and he was starting to go.

Then it happened.

He hit 'Polk Salad Annie' with almost everything he had and he was off and running---- the crowd was his for the next 50 minutes.

Teen agers screamed. Young people applauded. And older people sat back and enjoyed it all.


His songs ranged from fast-moving rhythm and blues music to church hymns.

His old songs received the biggest rounds of applause.

Three songs Elvis sang in Albuquerque in 1957 he performed again last night 'Heartbreak Hotel', 'Hound Dog' and 'Don't Be Cruel', which reportedly is Elvis' favorite.

But this seemed only natural for Elvis, a former truck driver from Tupelo, Miss.

Towards the end of his performance, he tossed his neck scarfs into the audience.

Light On

And the crowd loved it. Then he asked that the houselights be turned on. 'You've been looking at me all night, and now I want to look at you for a minute', Elvis said.

What he saw was an audience whose attire ranged from hotpants to pedalpushers, from evening gowns to blue jeans.

Want Autograph

Outside the stage door hundreds of anxious autograph hunters were gathering in hopes of finding Elvis.

'I'd think I'd rather fight the rioters in Albuquerque last summer than fight my way through that crowd', said a state policeman.

Inside, Elvis continued his performance.

Suddenly there was a blare of trumpets and Elvis dropped the microphone and ran off the stage.

'Aw---', someone said.

Elvis didn't stop running until he reached a side exit where a chauffeured limousine waited with the door open and the motor running. It whisked him off to his private plane on which he would fly home to Las Vegas, Nev.

Last night's tour ended a 15-day, 15-city tour for Elvis, who is more than $1 million richer than he was two weeks ago.

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Elvis Presley Video Tupelo's Own Elvis Presley DVD

Never before have we seen an Elvis Presley concert from the 1950's with sound. Until Now! The DVD Contains recently discovered unreleased film of Elvis performing 6 songs, including Heartbreak Hotel and Don't Be Cruel, live in Tupelo Mississippi 1956. Included we see a live performance of the elusive Long Tall Sally seen here for the first time ever. + Plus Bonus DVD Audio.

This is an excellent release no fan should be without it.

The 'parade' footage is good to see as it puts you in the right context with color and b&w footage. The interviews of Elvis' Parents are well worth hearing too. The afternoon show footage is wonderful and electrifying : Here is Elvis in his prime rocking and rolling in front of 11.000 people. Highly recommended.

Tupelo's Own Elvis Presley DVD Video with Sound.