Dr. Abby Rosenberg, medical leader of Seattle Children’s Adolescent and Young Adult (AYA) Cancer Program
This past week, my 10-year-old son was assigned a science experiment to conduct at home: exist for a full hour without electricity. During our family’s allotted hour, some things became incredibly difficult (imagine hand-washing dinner dishes in darkness). But the rest became wonderfully easy. With no way to do routine activities involving smartphones, TVs, computers, or other electronics, we just sat, talked and played board games by candlelight.
My son’s conclusion from this assignment? Without electricity, life is richer. He commented that he appreciated this opportunity to just be present and be together. “It’s different,” he explained. “In a weird way, electricity takes us away from each other. When you remove the electricity, you spend more time doing what’s important to you – what matters. You realize how lucky you are to have each other…and to have electricity the rest of the time.”
This was when my son’s simple assignment suddenly reminded me of what I see in and strive to teach our patients and families everyday. Read full post »
In honor of the New Year, we’re taking a look back at some of our most popular and memorable blog posts from 2014. Below is a list of our top 10 posts. Here’s to another great year of health news to come. Happy New Year!
Lung Liquid Similar to One Used in Movie “The Abyss” Saves Infant’s Life, Doctors Encourage FDA Approval of Clinical Trials
Two doctors at Seattle Children’s went the extra mile to save Tatiana, one of the sickest babies they’ve ever seen. They got FDA approval to use a long-forgotten drug and are now inspired to help make this drug available to save more lives.
Visit with Macklemore Helps 6-Year-Old Heart Patient Recover
AJ Hwangbo was a happy-go-lucky 6-year-old without a worry in the world until mid-November when he developed a life-threatening heart condition. While specialists at Seattle Children’s Hospital helped AJ heal physically, the young boy struggled to bounce back emotionally. But, AJ’s joyful spirit returned after hospital staff arranged for him to meet his hero – local artist Macklemore. Read full post »
You may remember Kat Tiscornia from September of last year when she shared her experience of battling Ewing sarcoma and becoming “Titanium Girl.” Kat, now a sophomore at Mercer Island High School, asked On the Pulse if she could share an important message with those who cared for her at Seattle Children’s. We think you’ll enjoy reading it as much as we did.
Thank you. It’s just two simple words. In some languages it’s just one, gracias or merci for example. I was brought up to say thank you all the time. Thank you to my teachers, my coaches, my bus driver and the store clerk behind the counter. Are these two words really enough though? What if it’s a big thank you? What if the people you want to thank are the reason you are standing here today?
In March 2013 I was diagnosed with Ewing sarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer. I was at Seattle Children’s Hospital when I first met my oncologist, Dr. Doug Hawkins. I will never forget that day. He had to deliver the worst news of my life. However, as he told me that I had a cancerous tumor in my leg, his voice was full of compassion, patience and honesty. He was honest about how hard this journey I was about to embark on was going to be. I remember being very scared that day, but I never felt hopeless. He had a plan for me and I trusted him. Thank you, Dr. Hawkins. Read full post »
In the video above, take an inside look at Seattle Children’s Hospital’s Cancer Care Unit and meet the individuals at Seattle Children’s dedicated to helping children and teens conquer childhood cancer, the second leading cause of death in children ages 5-14.
Tour the country’s first adolescent and young adult cancer unit thanks to a guide who knows the unit all too well, a former patient. See first-hand the cutting-edge research that is saving and enhancing the lives of children and adolescents – from using the body’s own immune system to fight cancer to a relatively new form of radiation therapy that offers hope to children with recurrent neuroblastoma. Read full post »
Dr. Abby Rosenberg is the medical leader of Seattle Children’s Adolescent and Young Adult (AYA) Cancer Program
After a child has been diagnosed with cancer, one of the first conversations we have with families is about clinical research. In fact, almost all children with cancer have the opportunity to participate in research, and many parents are asked to make decisions about enrollment early in their child’s cancer experience. The question we as researchers have to ask ourselves: Is this unfair? Parents are already struggling with the nearly impossible tasks of accepting their child’s cancer, assimilating huge amounts of new (perhaps confusing) medical information, and uprooting their lives to meet the demands of illness. Can they also make educated decisions about enrolling their child in clinical research?
Many ask, “What would you do if it were your child?” The question is not surprising; parents often make cancer-treatment decisions by “trusting staff.”1 Unfortunately, the answer is often, “I don’t know.” And that answer is true.
We don’t know how it feels to walk in your shoes, with your family’s values, perspectives and relationships. We also come from a different perspective, one where research is embedded in our training and guides almost all of our medical decision-making. We believe in research, but we don’t want to bias you with that belief. (As an aside, I’m pretty sure that all of my training and perspective would be forgotten if it were my own child, and I would ask the very same question of my medical providers. Like you, my single goal would be to do the right thing for my child.)
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Shannon Keating, 16, before cancer diagnosis.
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.
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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.
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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.
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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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