Shannon Keating always imagined that she would be a mom some day, but she didn’t expect she’d be treated at a fertility clinic at age 17. Shannon was diagnosed with Hodgkin Lymphoma as a high school sophomore, was successfully treated and then relapsed nine months later. As she prepared to fight for her life a second time, experts at Seattle Children’s Hospital helped her preserve her dream of being a parent one day.
A devastating diagnosis
Shannon was first diagnosed with Hodgkin Lymphoma in March 2013, after she discovered a lump on her neck. The treatment was six months of less-aggressive chemotherapy that oncologists did not believe would affect her fertility.
“I was relived that this therapy was less toxic, but when it was finished I didn’t feel like I was done,” Shannon said. “I had this feeling hanging over my head. I believed my cancer would come back.”
Unfortunately, Shannon was right. That December, her cancer relapsed. Facing a life-threatening illness once again, she learned her second round of treatment would be more aggressive and could cause infertility. Doctors offered her the opportunity to freeze her eggs so that she might later become pregnant using in-vitro fertilization, but Shannon was initially overwhelmed. Read full post »
In honor of Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, 26-year-old Heather Wick talks about having cancer at the age of 18 and how the experience influenced who she is today.
Heather Wick with her son, Daniel
Until beginning to write this post, I had never really thought about how generic introductions are. Name, age, job title, where you live, whose wife or mom you are…how much do you share to tell a person who you are? My introduction is fairly typical, Heather Wick, 26 years old, nanny, lives in Monroe, Alan’s wife and Danny’s mom…oh and CANCER SURVIVOR.
At this point in exchanging pleasantries I often get, “Oh my gosh… you had cancer?! You’re so young!” and then I begin to walk my curious new friend through my journey. Why don’t I just leave out the cancer survivor bit and make things quick and simple you ask? Well because I am proud to be a cancer survivor. That title is as much a part of me as my name is. So, new friends, I invite you to walk through a shortened and condensed version of my journey here, on the blog for the hospital that saved my life.
In my last post about “The Fault in Our Stars,” I made a comment about how most patients live, if not thrive after their cancers. I am deeply grateful for the readers who correctly commented that some patients also die.
There are no words to express how tragic, painful, or unjust, the death of a young person from cancer can be. I particularly appreciated these comments because they came a day after the death of one of my own, and very beloved, patients. I wrote this memoir the day he died. With his parents’ permission, I am sharing a few pieces of his story, his legacy, with you.
Daniel Mar died early this morning at the age of 20. He was one of my first patients as an independent oncologist. For that alone, I could say he will not be forgotten. Daniel was a “patient” simply because he happened to have cancer; terrible cancer that ultimately took his life. But beyond that, he was so much more. He was an advocate. A son. A brother. A devoted friend. To me, he was my muse. My teacher. And, through it all, my friend.
I loved “The Fault in Our Stars.” Both the book and the movie. I read the book a few years ago during a flight. I cried so hard that I’m sure the other passengers were alarmed, if not downright uncomfortable sitting near me. This summer, I saw the movie with a girlfriend. Same thing – I went through a whole pack of tissues and left red-faced, swollen and physically dehydrated.
As we walked out of the theater, my girlfriend (also a pediatrician) turned to me and said skeptically, “I don’t get it, Abby. Why are you so emotional? Isn’t this what you DO for a living?”
The answer is yes. Taking care of teens and young adults with cancer is what I do. And, perhaps, that is why this book/movie hit me so hard. For one thing, we oncologists are often so busy thinking about chemotherapy and side effects, we don’t see the other side of cancer. We get to know our patients and families, but we see them in the contrived settings of clinic and the hospital – not at home, amongst their friends or on a trip to Amsterdam. We aren’t always privy to their witty internal monologues or their poignant observations about the injustices of life, the things that really matter to them, or the life lessons they’ve learned during their arduous journey with cancer.
Dr. Abby Rosenberg recently assumed a leadership role in the Adolescent and Young Adult (AYA) Cancer Program at Seattle Children’s Hospital. She is also a researcher in Seattle Children’s Research Institute’s Center for Clinical and Translational Research. Dr. Rosenberg happens to love to write, so she’ll be contributing to On the Pulse from time to time. Below, she talks about her own experiences as a teen, and what it’s like for teens with cancer to balance those struggles while battling a serious illness.
Dr. Abby Rosenberg is the new medical leader of Seattle Children’s Adolescent and Young Adult (AYA) Cancer Program
It is with excitement and some nervousness that I begin my role as the new medical leader of our Adolescent and Young Adult (AYA) Cancer Program at Seattle Children’s Hospital. Why am I nervous? I love working with teens and young adults. But, I also remember my own adolescence and young adulthood. It wasn’t easy. I was socially awkward. Painfully insecure. A little bit lonely. I was a good student, a decent soccer player, and (unfortunately) an inconsistent friend. I wanted desperately to fit in, but never quite did. I believed that each boyfriend was “the one”…until suddenly he wasn’t. I fought with my mother constantly; I wanted her to be my friend and never would have admitted that I really needed her to be my mom. I couldn’t wait to move out, to be independent, to prove to the world that I was somebody.
Adolescence and young adulthood is a period of life that is supposed to be characterized by struggle. Maybe that sounds melodramatic, but I think it’s true. It is the time when we develop our self-identities. Our independence. We navigate peer relationships. Romantic relationships. Family and community roles. We begin to set our educational, vocational, and other life goals. We take on real responsibilities. Put bluntly, we grow up.
In honor of Brain Tumor Awareness Month, former Seattle Children’s patient Nina Garkavi shares her experience of battling a brain tumor as a young adult.
Nina with her dog Oscar at the Run of Hope in 2012
My name is Nina Garkavi and I am now 25 years old. I would have never thought I would be so closely connected to Seattle Children’s Hospital. My family moved to America when I was just 4 years old and I went through my childhood thankfully not needing any of the services that are provided by Seattle Children’s.
After finishing high school in Seattle, I moved to New York City for college. I scored a job on Fifth Avenue right after graduating in 2010 and began working in the big city. While it was all new and filled with busy days, I really felt like this was the start of my new journey and I was climbing up the big New York City ladder. I had to think about a lot of things – how would I afford living in the city? What train would I take to get to work? Where would I do laundry because there wasn’t a machine in the building? All those questions and more were filling up my mind but never did I think about cancer or what I would do if I got it. Not at 22. That was not something I was going to have to worry about…right? Wrong.
Eighteen-year-old Ibrahim El-Salaam, aka “I-Bizzle,” was born with a blood disorder called sickle cell disease and has been coming to Seattle Children’s Hospital for as long as he can remember. His disease has required him to spend a lot of time in the Inpatient Cancer Unit at Seattle Children’s, which houses patients who require inpatient stays for both cancer and blood disorders. When he’s there, he likes to find fun ways to pass the time – like making an “MTV Cribs”-inspired video to show off his pad in the country’s first Adolescent and Young Adult (AYA) Cancer Unit, which opened last year.
Wright is doing well and recently had a chance to meet the scientist who designed his therapy, the technicians who modified his cells and the family whose foundation helped fund his treatment. Read full post »
Last fall, 20-year-old Milton Wright III was given a death sentence. Today, he is expected to live a long, healthy life. This is the incredible story of how two determined researchers and the parents of a young boy came together to save him.
Leukemia. Again. The third time in his young life, to be precise.
Wright wasn’t surprised by the diagnosis. He had been worried his cancer was back and went to the hospital alone to avoid worrying his mom and three younger siblings. Still, the news was paralyzing.
“I really felt like I was coming up in the world,” he said. “I thought I was done with cancer.”
Then the news got worse. Wright’s leukemia had become resistant to chemotherapy. A bone marrow transplant could cure his cancer, but he would have to be in remission first, and that couldn’t happen without chemotherapy. His chances of survival were dismal. Read full post »
Hello my name is Kat Tiscornia and up until March of 2013 I was your typical 8th grader. I loved horseback riding, eventing to be more specific, skiing and spending time with friends and family. Then it all changed. I went to the doctor to have a large bump on my thigh checked out. I was told what I thought might be a bad bruise had a high probability of being cancer.
After many tests, two biopsy surgeries for my lung and my leg, and a stressful couple of weeks, I was diagnosed with a rare form of bone cancer called Ewing sarcoma. There are approximately 200 new diagnoses of the disease in the U.S. each year. Read full post »
Seattle Children’s provides healthcare for the special needs of children regardless of race, color, creed, national origin, religion, sex (gender), sexual orientation or disability. Financial assistance for medically necessary services is based on family income and hospital resources and is provided to children under age 21 whose primary residence is in Washington, Alaska, Montana or Idaho.