It takes communication

“I have a few tips for coping with cancer.
  1. When I put makeup on and wear nice clothes, people look at me and wonder if I chose to be bald.
  2. Ice cream and cereal got me through chemotherapy
  3. Surround yourself with positive people.
  4. Open up and talk to people.

It was that last bit of advice I had trouble with before I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma in the spring of 2015. I’m not much of a talker normally. When I met Brian Gagnon, a social worker at the California Cancer Center, I just opened up and my life story came out. I felt like a weight was lifted, and I know now that I want to be an oncology social worker.”

Unified Approach to care

Although I started my cancer treatment at Valley Children’s Hospital, I finished it at California Cancer Center, where Brian was a member of my care team.

My mom, Pamela Davis, was thrilled to see how seamlessly my care was coordinated between the two hospitals. Because of the remarkable communication, I could return to high school in August for the start of my senior year only four months after my diagnosis. Both hospitals were always on the same page, with no waiting or stalling between.

Tough decisions

I prepared for my treatment by ruling out any consideration of blood or bone marrow transfusions in keeping with my faith. My parents left the decision to sign a medical directive entirely up to me. I had no doubts. I’ve grown up in the church, and it’s what we believe, but when I signed the “no blood card,” it finally hit me that I was seriously ill.

Still, I was stoic about going into the hospital to biopsy the mass sitting on my aorta. It was my mom who actually reacted more like a teenager, with tears and questioning of why cancer had hit our family. I remember her mentioning that I had almost too healthy an attitude about it, and it was just my nature to put one foot in front of the other and do what needs to be done.

The one day I did break down when I decided to shave my head before chemotherapy could take it for me. We went to Super Cuts and I told them to shave it all off. I started crying, and couldn’t stop. When we went to the register, a young man had already paid for it. He had told the cashier to tell me that I was still beautiful.

Before I could dispute the compliment from this stranger, my mom made me pose for a selfie outside the shop. When we went outside, I felt the breeze on my bare head. I thought to myself, this feels okay. It will be okay.

Working together

Radiation isn’t part of most pediatric cancer treatment, but when necessary, the Cancer Center coordinates with children’s hospitals, providing expert radiation oncologists and the latest in expensive, specialized technology.

About 4-5% of radiation patients at the Cancer Center are younger than 19.

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