PART ONE: From witnessing exceptional care and compassion given to children in their own lives, to receiving treatment first-hand, this weekly series features Seattle Children’s employees and the life experiences that drove them to pursue careers in healthcare.
Shortly after Sofia Carlo finished the sixth grade, she started experiencing bouts of intense back pain.
“I went to see my primary care provider who thought I may be developing some scoliosis,” she recalled. “Upon receiving that scoliosis X-ray, I was referred for an MRI because the radiologist noted on my X-ray that I had osteophyte on a portion of my vertebra.”
Osteophyte is an abnormal bone growth, also known as a bone spur. Within a week of Carlo’s MRI, she was being treated at Seattle Children’s where she received a biopsy.
“That MRI revealed a mass growing in my spine. I was then officially diagnosed with Ewing sarcoma bone cancer at just 12 years old and was getting chemotherapy within two weeks of that original scoliosis X-ray,” she said.
For the next year, Carlo was a cancer patient at Seattle Children’s and came back frequently for follow-up exams through 2018 in the Cancer and Blood Disorders Center’s (CBDC) Bone Tumor and Sarcoma Clinic.
“I was treated by Dr. Doug Hawkins and Susan Ehling, a nurse practitioner, where I received 10 months of chemotherapy and 30 rounds of proton therapy during my time as a patient,” she explained.
Carlo also designed and sold shirts with the word ‘Hope’ displayed and raised over $10,000 in donations for cancer research at Seattle Children’s. On her last day of treatment, she also adopted a Yellow Labrador Retriever and named her Hope.
This deeply personal journey, including another positive patient experience with Dr. Terrence Chun at the age of 9 for supraventricular tachycardia (SVT), helped carve her professional path into healthcare.
Carlo has had no issues since completing the SVT and cancer treatment, and today works at Seattle Children’s as a radiology technologist in the Diagnostic Radiology clinic.
“My journey began and ended with imaging, and I would not be in this career if it wasn’t for my experience as a cancer patient and the interactions I had with staff during those formative years,” she explained. “When I was diagnosed, I took it upon myself to prove to my family that cancer doesn’t always win.”
She says “Hope. Care. Cure.” is so much more than just a statement.
“It’s my life,” Carlo said. “I understand what some of these kids feel on a deeper level: the anger, the confusion, the pain, and the feeling at the end of treatment. I feel I can truly empathize with these families and patients and give the best care that I can.”
She just recently celebrated 10 years cancer-free and is grateful for the life that she has been gifted.
“I love what I do, and I wouldn’t trade my experience as a patient for anything.”