When I was 12, I was diagnosed with ALL (acute lymphoblastic leukemia). For three years, I traveled five hours from my home near Sault Ste. Marie to Ann Arbor to receive chemo and check ups from the specialists at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital. My dad and I made the drive down about once a week in the beginning when I was receiving chemo. All of my treatments were outpatient, so we drove back and forth more times than I can remember.
Quite honestly, I did not look forward to going to Mott most of the time because I associated it with being sick. During that time, I had numerous lumbar punctures, which are never fun. I got to the point that even though I’d nap in the car for most of the drive to Ann Arbor, I’d wake up at about the same spot on the highway every time and get anxious about what I’d face that day. I thought once I was healthy, I’d never step foot in a hospital again.
My journey back to Mott
Then things changed for me. I started to see how caring the nurses, doctors and staff were and how hard they worked to keep me comfortable during the lumbar punctures and other procedures. They had great skills to help me cope through even the worst appointments. That’s when something clicked and I decided to go to nursing school.
Coming from a Michigan State family, I headed off to nursing school at Michigan State, but my ultimate goal was to come back to Mott to work. When I graduated, I began looking for a position at the University of Michigan Health System, with an interest in pediatrics. I was fortunate enough to be hired by Mott where I now work the night shift on the hematology/oncology floor.
The kind of care I remember getting
I have the unique opportunity to care for many patients who are going through the same experiences I had. My history gives me a unique perspective in relating to my patients. I remember how patient the nurses were with me and I try to have that same patience with the children I care for.
Newly diagnosed patients and their parents seem to especially appreciate my story and experiences. It’s good for them to see someone who faced their same battle and is now healthy, happy and doing what he loves. Kids can be really frightened when they have a port put in. It’s a scary concept for them. Having been down that road, I can share with them how much they are going to appreciate the port as they go through treatment.
It’s just a great feeling to provide the kind of care I received when I was a patient. I’ve come full circle.
Some things, like medications, have changed for kids since I went through treatment. There are many side effects that come along with chemotherapy that can make kids very uncomfortable. We are utilizing different medications to help with these side effects and make children as comfortable as possible when receiving chemo.
There are other things that haven’t changed since I was treated. We are using many of the same treatment protocols to treat our patients, and while many of these are successful I know we have so much more we can do to help kids with cancer. Those treatments we’ve been using for over a decade for some of these cancers don’t work for all kids, and those of us who care for these kids know we can and should be able to do more.
Take the next step:
- Learn more about pediatric cancer research at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital.
- Discover how you can be a part of the fight to Block Out Cancer.
- Read another of our nurse’s story about why she works to Block Out Cancer.
- Read one of our doctor’s stories about his own battle with cancer.
Block Out Cancer is a rallying cry for people from all walks of life to come together to support the fight against children’s cancers. Everyone has a role to play. Learn more about how you can help Block Out Cancer.
University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital is consistently ranked one of the best hospitals in the country. It was nationally ranked in all ten pediatric specialties in U.S. News Media Group’s “America’s Best Children’s Hospitals,” and among the 10 best children’s hospitals in the nation by Parents Magazine. In December 2011, the hospital opened our new 12-story, state-of-the-art facility offering cutting-edge specialty services for newborns, children and women.