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.
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Seattle Children’s Research Institute adolescent medicine expert Dr. Rachel Katzenellenbogen.
Nearly all men and women in the United States are infected with human papillomavirus (HPV) during their lives, putting them at greater risk of developing life-threatening cervical, anal, vaginal, penile, throat and tongue cancers. But, what if it was possible to stop these cancers from developing?
The National Cancer Institute has awarded Seattle Children’s Research Institute adolescent medicine expert Dr. Rachel Katzenellenbogen more than $2 million to research that possibility. She is studying what happens in the body between the time of HPV infection and cancer development in search of opportunities to intervene and prevent malignant disease.
“There are generations of people who did not get the HPV vaccine or got vaccinated after they were already exposed to HPV,” Katzenellenbogen said. “Those people could still develop cancer. We need to understand their disease process if we are going to help them.” Read full post »
Dr. Douglas Hawkins is the chair of the COG study
At the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Annual Meeting, Children’s Oncology Group (COG) researchers presented promising findings from an international study that has identified a new therapy for treating rhabdomyosarcoma, a common childhood cancer. The therapy has fewer harsh side effects, meaning it lessens the chance of infections, need for blood transfusions and infertility later in life.
“Although we did not improve the cure rate, we are excited that we have identified a therapy that was as effective as standard treatment, but has fewer harmful side effects,” said Dr. Douglas Hawkins, chair of the COG study and associate division chief of Hematology/Oncology at Seattle Children’s Hospital. “Most children are cured of this cancer, and so we want to limit not only the side effects they experience during treatment, but also reduce the side effects that affect long-term health.”
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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.
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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.
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Milton Wright III meets the lab technicians who engineered his T-cells and helped save his life.
Some moments are so significant the weight of them seems to hang in the air. I experienced this first-hand when cancer survivor Milton Wright III met the people who helped save his young life.
You may remember Wright, the leukemia patient who achieved remission thanks to an immunotherapy protocol designed by Mike Jensen, MD, at Seattle Children’s Research Institute.
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 »
“Stop talking and start doing.”
The 10-year-old Virginia girl who spoke these words to lawmakers helped increase funding for pediatric research this year with the passing of a new law, and Seattle Children’s Research Institute is celebrating the news.
“Pediatrics gets a very small share of the National Institutes of Health budget, certainly not proportional to the number of children in the United States,” says Jim Hendricks, PhD, president of Seattle Children’s Research Institute. “Any dollars that make their way to pediatric research may help our patients and other children around the world.”
A little girl makes a difference
Fifth grader Gabriella Miller became a widely celebrated childhood cancer activist during her 11 month battle with brain cancer. In the weeks before her death on Oct. 26, she urged lawmakers to increase support of pediatric research.
“We need action,” she said during an interview for a cancer awareness documentary. Read full post »
Austin Dunlap, middle, with Professional Bull Riders Chase Outlaw, left, and Ty Pozzobon, right.
Thanks to a visit from a few very special cowboys, today is a day that 16-year-old Austin Dunlap will never forget. Dunlap, who is being treated for Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia at Seattle Children’s Hospital, is a big fan of Professional Bull Riders (PBR). But due to his recent bone marrow transplant, he is unable to attend their event this weekend in Tacoma and wished the riders could instead come to him. And so, Seattle Children’s Pediatric Advanced Care Team (PACT) contacted PBR and made it happen!
Dunlap and his family met bull rider, Ty Pozzobon, and 2013 PBR Touring Pro Champion, Chase Outlaw. Pozzobon and Outlaw brought Dunlap signed PBR gear and hung out while watching videos and swapping rodeo stories.
Dunlap had some fun stories of his own as he has been involved in rodeo events in Montana from the time he could walk. From mutton busting to riding steers and team roping, he is no stranger to the rodeo.
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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.
On Sept. 18, 2013, 20-year-old Milton Wright III walked into Seattle Children’s Hospital and received some devastating news.
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 »
Travis, Turner and Tynan Patterson (from left to right) packed the car for last year’s toy drive for Children’s.
This month, Travis Patterson and his 16-year-old son, Turner, are spearheading their seventh annual holiday toy drive for patients at Seattle Children’s.
It’s just one way the Pattersons give back to the place that saved Turner’s life and changed Travis’s forever.
Nearly 11 years after Travis first walked through Children’s doors, holding tight to a very sick Turner, he is a grateful parent, a dedicated volunteer and – since earlier this year – an engaged employee. In February, the journeyman electrician joined the Plant Operations team.
And he’s not the only family member working at Children’s. His older son (and Turner’s big brother), Tynan Patterson, works in the Nutrition Department.
When Travis makes his hospital rounds to work on the emergency generator or fulfill Fix-It requests, Travis brings the tools of his trade and something else – a type of compassion that can only come from been-there, done-that experience.
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