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Sam Doesn’t Let His Mental Health Struggles Define Him

When Sam Duenwald, 18, was in seventh grade, he got sick and had to miss a couple of weeks of school.

However, a couple of weeks of missed school turned into three, then four, then five.

“It became a vicious cycle,” Sam said. “I was getting really anxious about going back to school because I knew I had missed a ton of homework and that was causing my grades to drop, so I decided to avoid going to school altogether. This of course spiraled into missing even more homework, making my grades suffer further.”

Naturally, the situation caused tension between Sam and his parents.

“There was a lot of stress at home, and I was fighting with my parents all the time,” Sam said. “They knew I needed help.”

Sam’s anxiety became so severe that his parents took him to see a psychiatrist at Seattle Children’s midway through seventh grade. He was prescribed anxiety medication, which helped Sam finish up the school year.

“Over the summer, I kept telling myself, ‘I need to go back to school regularly; I’m going to be in eighth grade and everything is going to be great,’” Sam said.

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Global Clinical Trial Aims to Improve Therapies for Pediatric Acute Leukemia

Seattle Children’s will embark on a groundbreaking clinical trial that will potentially transform treatment methods for children with relapsed acute pediatric leukemia.

In collaboration with The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS), Dr. Todd Cooper, an oncologist and director of the Seattle Children’s High-Risk Leukemia Program, is part of a team leading the effort to launch a global precision medicine master clinical trial called the LLS Pediatric Acute Leukemia (PedAL) Initiative. The goal of the trial, which is part of The LLS Children’s Initiative: Cures and Care for Children, is to test multiple targeted therapies simultaneously at up to 200 clinical sites, including Seattle Children’s, worldwide.

Cooper, the Clinical Trial Lead, will oversee the master screening trial where children with newly diagnosed and relapsed acute leukemia can choose to have their clinical and biologic information included in an international database. This database will serve many purposes, including helping to determine an individual child’s eligibility for a number of targeted clinical trials. The data will also be used to uncover new targets for therapy and as a rich source for groundbreaking discoveries.

On the Pulse sat down with Cooper to discuss the specifics of the trial and how it will possibly revolutionize the types of cancer treatments available for children.

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Dealing With the Emotional Aftermath of a Cancer Diagnosis

Grace Blanchard was just three weeks away from graduating from college when she began feeling like something was off.

“It started with my handwriting,” Blanchard said. “I had always felt like I had good handwriting, so it was strange that it all of a sudden became messy, slanted and unreadable.”

Then there was the slurred speech and dizziness.

“At first I thought I had vertigo,” she said, “so I decided to see a neurologist to get an MRI.”

Once the results of the MRI scan were in, Blanchard received a call.

“They asked me to come into the clinic as quickly as possible, and that I should bring support,” she said. “They knew that after hearing, ‘you have a brain tumor the size of a golf ball on your cerebellum,’ I wouldn’t be able to listen to anything else.”

The following day, Blanchard flew from California, where she had been going to school, to Seattle, her hometown, for surgery to remove the tumor.

“I decided Seattle would be the best option, not only because I wanted to be with my family,” she said, “but also because of the fact that Seattle has the best hospitals for cancer treatment.”

Within 24 hours of flying into Seattle, Blanchard went to Seattle Children’s to get her tumor surgically removed.

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‘Boys Will Be Boys:’ The Negative Effects of Traditional Masculinity

The phrase ‘boys will be boys,’ is often used to describe what some consider are normal masculine tendencies boys might have, such as being rough and reckless.

Dr. Tyler Sasser, a psychologist in Seattle Children’s Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine clinic believes these characteristics of what society deems as masculine can often reflect unhealthy and sometimes risky behaviors.

“In Western culture, boys and men are expected to be competitive, tough and dominant,” Sasser said. “The term, traditional masculinity, labels these expectations. Meaning, boys and men need to be stoic and suppress emotions they experience, other than anger.”

Recent research shows that these beliefs associated with traditional masculinity often lead to harmful behaviors toward themselves and others.

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‘You Are Valid’: Torin Takes Pride in Their Authentic Self

In celebration of LGBTQ+ Pride Month, On the Pulse shares a story about 17-year-old Torin, a Seattle Children’s patient who battled cancer. After years of treatment and rehabilitation, Torin is now standing strong, yet continues to face challenges that come with identifying as gender non-binary. Torin talks about their struggle and overcoming oppression by not being afraid to express their authentic self.

From as early as Torin could remember, they used writing as a way of expressing emotion.

“I knew I loved writing when I wrote my first series of stories in elementary school,” Torin said. “They were about the adventures of ‘Pencil Man,’ a superhero who had the power to draw and erase things.”

Although Torin finds the plot of the story silly now, it serves as a poignant theme in their life.

Each individual should have the power to create their own story and be true to themself.

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From Being Sick to Scaling Mountains, Andrew Finds Strength to Soar

Seattle Children’s patient Andrew Peterson with Dr. Ghassan Wahbeh and nurse Teresa Wachs on the day of his Eagle Scout Court of Honor ceremony.

The numerous merit badges adorning 17-year-old Andrew Peterson’s olive green Boy Scout sash not only signify his accomplishments, but illustrate how far he has come.

Andrew’s journey of overcoming a difficult illness that left him in and out of the hospital during most of his early childhood years, led him to recently receiving the highest achievement in Scouting, attained by only about 2% of all scouts.

“Becoming an Eagle Scout has allowed me to reflect on how much I’ve gone through to get to this point,” Andrew said. “I’m grateful for all of the support I’ve received from various people over the years.”

Among Andrew’s friends and family that were present as he received his Eagle Scout medal during a special ceremony in April, were two guests who witnessed firsthand the transformation Andrew made from being a sick and fragile boy to the confident young man that stood before them.

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Cutting to Cope: What is Nonsuicidal Self-Injury?

Today, nearly one in five children has a mental, emotional, or behavioral disorder. While some seek relief from their distress using positive coping methods, others may choose methods that are harmful and potentially life-threatening.

Dr. Yolanda Evans, an adolescent medicine specialist at Seattle Children’s, has been seeing a recent increase in teens coming into the clinic with self-injuries done through cutting, burning, pinching and scratching, among others.

“It’s possible that the increase may be partly due to the impact that social media and technology has on the current generation,” Evans said. “Kids might see their peers online engaging in self-harming behavior as a way to cope with their emotions, influencing them to replicate that type of behavior.”

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Care Close to Home Gives Carson Ability to Pursue Her Creativity

Carson Bryant, an 11-year-old from Gig Harbor, Washington, was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. Through the Inflammatory Bowel Disease Center at Seattle Children’s South Clinic in Federal Way, Carson is able to receive the treatment she needs much closer to home.

Creativity is at the center of 11-year-old Carson Bryant’s life.

“I would describe her as being imaginative,” her mother, Andrea Bryant, said. “She has a love for theater and dreams of being an illustrator someday.”

In January 2018, Carson had to put her creative passions aside when she began experiencing symptoms that sparked concern for her mother.

“I noticed Carson was making frequent trips to the bathroom,” she said. “I became even more worried when there was blood in her stool.”

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Sewing a Seamless Transition for Chester’s Autism Care

Chester Dudley was diagnosed with autism at 5 years old. When he reached his late teens, his mother had growing concern about the resources that would be available for him once he entered adulthood. Fortunately, Seattle Children’s Alyssa Burnett Adult Life Center made the transition for Chester easier.

When Chester Dudley was 3 years old, his mother, Stella Ogiale, enrolled him into a child care center located near their home in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

After a few months, Ogiale received a startling message from the center telling her that there might be something wrong with Chester.

“They told me I needed to get him checked,” Ogiale said. “When I heard that, I became so emotional and upset that I stopped taking him there.”

She thought her son’s hyperactive behavior was like any other child’s, but to give her peace of mind, she decided to have him evaluated.

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Mother of Twins with Autism Shares Her Gratitude to Care Team

In honor of Autism Awareness Month, On the Pulse shares a story about a mother with 3-year-old twin daughters who have autism and her showing of gratitude for the relentless care and support that the Seattle Children’s Autism Center staff has provided her family.

Nataly Cuzcueta felt like a proud parent when she witnessed her twin daughters, Kira and Aliya, smile, laugh and walk for the first time.

Seeing them reach these milestones left no doubt in Cuzcueta’s mind that their development was right on track.

However, when her daughters turned 11 months old, everything changed.

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