Meet 5 Everygirls Working to Kick Childhood Cancer in the A**

Over the summer, I had the chance to fly down to Memphis to visit the campus of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital® . I’d never toured a hospital (though I’d come to find St. Jude is much more than a just hospital) before, and I wasn’t sure what to expect. 

What I found was beyond any and all of my expectations. Everyone was so nice. It was unlike any hospital environment I had ever been in during times of stress and trauma in my life. In those scenarios, I always felt tense, stressed, and hushed. At St. Jude, I had the overwhelming feeling that each staff member I encountered truly loved what they did — and wanted to be there to inspire and effect change. It was heady and awe-inspiring, to say the least. Which is why I feel so honored to have interviewed these five amazing women — strong, smart, and talented — who call St. Jude or ALSAC (the fundraising and awareness organization for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital® ) their home away from home.

September is National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month and peeking into the lives of these women gives us a sliver of insight into what it’s like working with and around childhood cancer every day. You’ll learn what each woman (two childhood cancer survivors themselves) has learned from the children of St. Jude, and more about how St. Jude is working to find a cure, each and every day. Since opening their doors in 1962, St. Jude has raised the overall childhood cancer survival rate from 20% to 80%. And that only scratches the surface of what they do. I hope you feel as inspired by these women’s stories as I did.

 

In the boardroom with Emily Callahan…

Name: Emily Callahan
Age: 39
Position: Chief Marketing Officer at ALSAC, the fundraising and awareness organization for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital®

 

What was your first job and how did you land it?

 

After I graduated from Baylor, I went to work for the global PR firm Edelman in its Dallas office. I actually started at Edelman as an intern the summer before my senior year after asking the speaker from Edelman at a Baylor Journalism School student event for informational interviews at the firm. Thankfully she said yes, then Edelman made an exception to their rule of hiring only graduates and hired me as undergraduate intern. Nearly 20 years later, I still work with my first supervisor and consider the woman who gave me that start a dear friend. I spent five years at Edelman working my way up before moving to Susan G. Komen for the Cure. Working at a multi-national like Edelman was a fantastic experience and I’d recommend any young, aspiring marketing or PR professional experience an agency setting, especially early in your career. I touched a wide variety of accounts and took valuable lessons from all of the clients and the projects we developed.

 

What does a typical day at the office look like for you?

 

I typically wake at 5:00 am. I like to use the hours before the sun comes up to read a variety of newspapers, online sites, and other headlines relevant to our mission; respond to emails that came in overnight and then work out. My work out time is incredibly important to me — as much for my mental health as my physical health.

After getting our two young children ready for the day and off to school, I head to the office around 8:00 am and, on many mornings, will have a pulse check with my boss and mentor, ALSAC President & CEO Rick Shadyac.

Once I’m at the office, I spend the bulk of my day living up to one of my mantras: “communicate, communicate, communicate.” This means meeting and presenting with fellow ALSAC colleagues, strategic partners, and/or donors, and spending time with individuals or smaller groups to tackling problems and helping remove roadblocks from their path. I try to spend time each week coaching and mentoring others, which is often when I learn the most.

When in town, I leave the office no later than 6:30 pm each evening that we don’t have a St. Jude event. Family time in the evening is sacred and keeps my heart full. By 9:00 pm or so, I’m typically ready for bed.

 

You went from Edelman Public Relations to Susan G. Komen for the Cure to ALSAC. What drew you to the nonprofit sector?

 

I honestly didn’t know a lot about non-profits and had a ton of misperceptions. But, I knew I was unhappy, professionally and personally, and was drawn to using my skills to make a difference in the world. Thankfully a friend and former colleague pointed me in the direction of Komen. There, I first understood the power of a global movement and the ability of one person to make a difference in the world. I also learned the incredible influence a nonprofit brand can have on both the public and private sector in the U.S. and beyond.

Receiving the call to come to ALSAC and becoming a mother only furthered my deep passion for working for a purpose, in this case children. Today, I work alongside one of the one world’s most talented teams, devoted volunteers, generous donors, and hardworking, caring people who gladly make sacrifices, knowing their work is helping save the lives of children everywhere.

 

Tell us about your experiences with the children of St. Jude. What have you learned from them?

 

The biggest lessons I’ve learned from the children of St. Jude are: that all people are the same — we want to live and thrive; to be grateful and present for each moment; you are stronger than you think you are; and that you don’t have to be big or mighty or rich to change the world — wisdom often comes in very small packages.

These lessons are why I keep pictures of patients that have touched my heart in my office:

The first patient I ever held — it was Halloween. She was an infant. She and her twin sister — Florida born — were dressed as lobsters. How cute and clever is that? Their momma couldn’t manage both babies at an event, so she turned and handed one to me to rock. That sweet baby died from her disease just a few months later, but left her forever mark on my heart as we fight for the next little one.

The picture of four children — all different ages and races and backgrounds. Smiling so big you would never know that they were united as friends through cancer, a disease that doesn’t discriminate.

And Ariana. Her mother, Leticia, was the first patient mom I ever heard speak. I sobbed as she talked about their cancer journey, from a Navy base overseas to St. Jude, and I marveled at her strength. St. Jude invented new treatments that kept Ariana alive for years longer than we thought possible. I had so much fun giggling and dancing at events with her… playing hide and seek when dinners got boring. Ariana never wasted a moment — she made life fun, seized every moment, and loved big. One of the most heartbreaking things I have ever experienced came at her funeral… just shy of her 8th birthday, as I watched her little sister, and best friend, say goodbye. Ariana taught me so much, and her family continues to inspire me as they work each day at ALSAC and volunteering for St. Jude.

These are just a sliver of the examples of how the children of St. Jude have changed me. It’s the “why” I carry in my heart as I do my job each day. To push on until we realize Danny’s [St. Jude founder Danny Thomas] dream that “no child die in the dawn of life.”

 

As Chief Marketing Officer for ALSAC, what do you hope immediately comes to mind when individuals see the ALSAC or St. Jude logo?

 

I hope when people see the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital logo or pictures of our patients, they know that this global resource exists for the mission of: Finding cures. Saving children. Everywhere. From day one we have stayed true to our foundational promise that no family will ever receive a bill from St. Jude for treatment, travel, housing, or food because we believe all a family should worry about is helping their child live.

My immediate focus is to increase the prominence and relevance of the St. Jude brand on a national and international scale by helping people everywhere understand how St. Jude is leading the way the world understands, treats, and defeats childhood cancer and other life-threatening diseases.

 

You have two children with your husband, Jason. How has working at St. Jude affected how you talk to them about death?

 

I think the two most important times we can be there for one another is when we are born and when we die. My father was a funeral home director when I was a child and my mother is a nurse, so my family has always been very open about talking about death. It is the same with my children. We talk about what happens when you die, how it’s okay to be sad for as long as you want, and about the idea of heaven in a way that is age appropriate and not scary. We have a special ritual in our family for each time we are apart. I ask, “Where does mommy live when she is not with you?” They answer: “In my heart.” It reminds us both that even when we are not physically together or if we were to die, our love for one another never, ever goes away.

 

If you could have lunch with any woman, who would it be and why?

 

My daughter, Emerson, when she is my age.

 

What advice would you give to your 23-year-old self?

 

First, purpose matters. Find your purpose — the “why” behind your work — and dream big. Be visionary, bold, strategic, and innovative to achieve meaningful success around that “why,” and make sure the people around you can dream along with you. We spend much of our lives at work; make it count for something bigger than the bottom line. It’s why I live my life by my “funeral principle” — the idea that when I die, the people I love will say: “she was a great wife/partner, mother, friend, made a difference in the world and had fun while doing it.”

Second, authenticity is critical. Be authentic, be real, be purposeful, and do not take any opportunity for granted. Your reputation is your currency. I try to treat every day as if it is the day I am interviewing for my job. I never forget that my work is only made possible by the generous sacrifices of others.

Third, you are only as good as your people. Surround yourself with great people with drive and energy who are smarter than you and will challenge you. Be compassionate and caring about the people you have the privilege of serving with and help them reach their potential. Nothing makes me happier than helping people experience fulfillment and growth.

 

Working with patient families with Tayde Cruz Dodds…

Name: Tayde Cruz Dodds
Age: 37
Position: Specialist, Patient Family Stewardship at ALSAC, the fundraising and awareness organization for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital®

 

You currently work on the Patient Team in the Marketing Department of ALSAC, but your relationship with St. Jude stretches back much farther. Tell us about your journey with St. Jude, starting when you were 7 and diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

 

When I was 7, I was blessed to have arrived at St Jude. I thought of it as a place where people loved me and took care of me even if they didn’t know me and did not speak my language. As I grew older, I understood more and more about what cancer was and what St. Jude was doing for me and many other children — finding cures to save us!

My journey was not an easy one, but it gave me the opportunity to grow spiritually. I learned that places like St. Jude are few in this world, places that help the community. I understood there were donors out there who helped me without knowing who I was. Thanks to St. Jude and our donors, I am here today and that inspired me to want to work here. I want to be able to be part of this mission and I love knowing that in a way I am helping these families too. It fills my heart with happiness when mothers of patients look at me and find hope for their children.

Working on the Patient Outreach Team at ALSAC for 13 years has given me the opportunity to meet and get to know families across the globe. Being able to communicate in English, Spanish or French, and share a little bit of what I went through with them makes me feel like I am sharing what St. Jude does — sharing the love and goodness across the world.

 

You moved from Mexico to receive treatment at St. Jude — twice, once when you were 7 and again when you were 12. What was that transition process like?

 

Moving isn’t easy for anyone, but moving when you’re in the middle of school and because of cancer from one day to the next to a place where the language, the food, the culture, the traditions are different makes it a bit harder. I think the language barrier might have been our toughest challenge, but it was good to know that there were people willing to help us with that. At the age of 12, we had to move again and at the age of 14, I knew that we had to elongate our stay due to my second relapse. It was tough, especially being away from the family since my family is very united. However, giving up was not an option so we would endure whatever we had to, to win the battle with cancer. And we did!

 

Take us through a typical day at the office for you now, as a member of the Patient Team.

 

I can’t say that I have a “typical day” because my projects are always changing but I can say that I am able to work with patient families at ALSAC events, I meet new families and invite them to share their story if they wish to do so, I follow up with families who have been here before, and work with patient art, which is something I enjoy quite a bit. I have regular art parties at the hospital where patients are able to donate their art, if they want, so it can be used for different projects. Art can be a therapy for the children and I love seeing the way they express themselves.

 

Tell us about coming to work at St. Jude. How did the opportunity arise? Did you know you wanted to work for St. Jude after your own experience there?

 

After my treatment, I came for checkups. I was studying International Business when someone mentioned St Jude offered internships. That’s when I thought it might be a good experience to have, plus, I could give back for what St Jude did for me. But after that, I couldn’t let go. This is an amazing place to work.

 

Do you have a favorite aspect of your job? What brings you the most joy?

 

I truly enjoy working with children when I have my art parties. They enjoy it so much and it brings them so much joy. Seeing these children smile makes my heart jump with happiness. I have been able to find artists among these children and they are excellent at what they do! I love working with them.

 

You recently welcomed a baby girl, Tayde Sofia, even though you thought you wouldn’t be able to have children. Congratulations! Tell us about how your daughter has changed your life.

 

Tayde Sofia is my everything. After thinking I wasn’t going to be able to have her and going through five years of treatments, I still look at her sometimes in disbelief. She has brought me so much love and happiness! This was also an experience that taught me the power of faith and prayers.

 

If you could have lunch with any woman, who would it be and why?

 

Other than my mother, who is my idol, I would love to have lunch with Ellen DeGeneres. She is a woman who is always happy and confident, and she’s always giving to those in need — which is how we all should be. The feeling of giving to those in need is so fulfilling, their tears of joy drench your heart with this sort of addicting love… you just want to keep giving to make a difference in their lives. I admire her straight-forwardness and her sense of humor.

 

What advice would you give to your 23-year-old self?

 

I would say, follow your heart and keep strong. Always stand up for yourself and don’t let anyone make you doubt yourself. This world is a “tough cookie.”

 

Making discoveries in the lab with Rosa Nguyen, MD…

Name: Rosa Nguyen, MD
Age: 32
Position: Physician-Scientist Training Program Fellow, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital®

 

What was your first job and how did you land it?

 

My first job was at the North German Broadcast station. I worked in the archives department, sorting and recycling tapes. I applied for the job because it was right next to the medical campus and it paid well.

 

What drew your interest to medicine?

 

I had an awesome pediatrician growing up. She was strict but knowledgeable and always very supportive of me. She encouraged me to study and pursue my dreams. That experience left such a strong impact on me. I have always wanted to give something back and help another child one day.

 

During research for fellowship opportunities, you came across St. Jude. What stood out to you about St. Jude and when did you realize you wanted to work there?

 

I had heard about St. Jude and read research papers from the faculty there. I was very impressed because many landmark articles in pediatric oncology or hematology were co-authored by at least one faculty member of St. Jude. When I entered my second year of residency, I applied for a rotation at St. Jude. The coordinator for visiting residents was accommodating and fast with facilitating this rotation and I ended up visiting for a whole month. I had such a wonderful experience during my rotation at St. Jude and I decided to apply for fellowship here. Today, I am very humbled to have been part of this amazing fellowship program.

 

You are currently enrolled in the Physician-Scientist Training Program fellowship. What does a typical day look like for you?

 

I usually come in around 6:30 or 7:00 am, when I plan and begin my experiments. My hours are variable and depend on when I can complete my experiments. My project allows me to interact with many staff members and other researchers throughout the day. I also get to use the different resources here at St. Jude and I may end up spending time in different departments throughout the day because of that variety.

 

What do you find most challenging about your job? Do you have a favorite aspect?

 

I think it’s challenging to find a good balance between clinical and lab work. Patient care has been such a fundamental part of my training as an MD. The encounters in the clinic have shaped me during my time at St. Jude and they are my biggest motivation to pursue the work I am doing in the laboratory. I love relating questions from my research to clinical scenarios — thinking about clinical issues or questions and trying to answer those through my work at the bench.

 

Tell us about interacting with patients at St. Jude. What have you learned from them?

 

Each and every patient has taught me bravery and endurance. I often ask myself how these children and their families can be so resilient through cancer treatment and the hurdles along the way. I am grateful to be a part of their journeys and have been humbled throughout the experience.

 

How do you deal with the emotional demands of your job?

 

I’m grateful to have my significant other, family, and friends who have been unbelievably supportive.

 

You also spend time researching neuroblastoma and studying ways to optimize patient therapy. Tell us about your approach to research — do you make breakthroughs every day or is the process slow and steady?

 

Research is a marathon, but everyday we get closer to the answers. As a sprinter, I have learned patience in the research process.

 

If you could have lunch with any woman, who would it be and why?

 

This is a difficult question, there are so many that come to mind. Aung San Suu Kyi, the first State Counsellor of Myanmar and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate; both of my grandmothers who I unfortunately never got to know, or Serena Williams among many others. All of these women have overcome many obstacles and limitations along their way and I would have loved to hear about their experiences. 

 

What advice would you give to your 23-year-old self?

 

Keep doing what you do and believe in yourself!

 

Leveraging knowledge and tech with Tiffany Rooks…

Name: Tiffany Rooks
Age: 37
Position: Interim Chief Nursing Officer, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital®

 

What was your first job and how did you land it?

 

My first nursing job was as a pediatric neurology nurse. I cared for children whose diagnosis ranged from epilepsy, Cerebral Palsy, Hydrocephalus, traumatic brain injuries, and brain tumors. I was a nurse extern on the unit and after I graduated from nursing school, I was offered a permanent, full-time position.

 

What drew you to the field of medicine?

 

My kindergarten teacher drew me to medicine. As we prepared for Career Day, each student was asked to share our dream job. When I shared my job, my teacher was confused, tickled, and ultimately suggested that I think of another job. In helping me to think of other careers, she mentioned nursing. As a healthy child, my experience with nursing consisted of receiving goodies from the nice ladies at my pediatrician’s office who took my blood pressure, weighed me, and sometimes gave me a shot. I liked the thought of helping people and decided at the age of five that I would become a nurse.

 

You are currently working as the Interim Chief Nursing Officer for St. Jude. Tell us about your journey with St. Jude. How did you step up to the challenge of taking over the position of Chief Nursing Officer from a leader who had held the position for over 30 years? 

 

I have been fortunate enough to work with a very supportive staff that has been helpful in my transition to the interim Chief Nursing Officer role. I worked for the former CNO and I found comfort in knowing that she would be available for several weeks to transfer as much information to me as possible. We met frequently and she provided answers to my questions and shared insight with me that I didn’t know to ask.

The directors that I work with have been doing their jobs for numerous years and I knew that they would continue to lead their teams, regardless of who was in this position. The senior leadership team has been most impressive to work with, because everyone has been extremely kind and have made me feel welcomed in meetings, discussions, and on projects in progress. The administrative team and coordinator that I work with have really worked hard to ensure each day flows as smoothly as possible and that the work that I was doing prior to stepping into the role of Interim CNO is not lagging. Without them, this transition would be much more difficult.

 

Take us through a typical work day.

 

A typical work day consists of 4 -6 hours of meetings. I have time blocked on my calendar each day for lunch and office time to help me organize. This time allows me to catch up on emails, meet with staff, complete tasks, and make sure I eat lunch. As busy as the hospital gets, there are times when it isn’t possible to complete everything on my to-do list and sometimes that requires extra time on the evening and even weekend hours.

 

Tell us about your favorite and least favorite aspects of your job.

 

My favorite aspect of my job is the opportunity to learn something new on a daily basis.  When I gain new knowledge, I look for ways to share what I’ve learned with others. Teaching is how I truly retain and improve my understanding of newly acquired information and skills.

My least favorite aspect isn’t unique to this job alone, but it would have to be when I work longer in the evening or on weekends. I value time with my family and strive to have a good work-life balance; however, there are days when I am not able to complete all of my work during regular business hours and this requires that I work later in the evening and sometimes on the weekends. When I know that I have to work later or on weekends, I look for ways to have some family time. For example, if I work later in the evenings it may be after I have eaten dinner with my family and they have gone to bed. On the weekends, I work before or after planned family activities.

 

How do you deal with the emotional demands of your job?

 

Like most people, I have hobbies that are great stress relievers but for the true emotional demands of work, I depend on my faith, family, friends, and my sense of humor.

When I am having a difficult day or week, it is my faith and prayer that gives me strength and courage. I have a wonderful support system of friends and family, who are always available for prayer, guidance, and distraction. My husband is absolutely my biggest supporter. He always has the perfect words of wisdom and encouragement. My sense of humor also helps keep my spirits lifted. I love to laugh and make others laugh and in my home, there is no shortage of opportunities for laughter. We laugh at ourselves and each other. We try not to be too serious and this makes coming home after a demanding day at work easy.

 

If you could have lunch with any woman, who would it be and why?

 

If I could have lunch with any woman, I would choose Michelle Obama. Not just because she is the former first lady but because she is a well-educated woman, mother, and wife who held an executive position in a healthcare organization. I’ve read where she describes herself as Sasha and Malia’s mother, rather than focusing on her professional or political accomplishments. I think having a conversation with her would be an opportunity for me to learn how she has been able to balance her professional and personal responsibilities. I would also love advice on raising teenage daughters.

 

What advice would you give to your 23-year-old self?

 

I would advise 23-year-old me to spend more time and cherish each moment with my grandparents, not to stress about planning every aspect of my future because life happens, and to invest heavily in Apple stock.

 

In the clinic with Dawn Tanner…

Name: Dawn Tanner
Age: 36
Position: PA, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital®

 

As a 10-year-old, you received treatment from St. Jude for Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. What do you remember about this time at St. Jude? 

 

I was 9 years old when I was diagnosed with leukemia and became a part of the St. Jude family. I remember my initial diagnosis and learning about what cancer was and what it meant to have leukemia. I remember the painful tests that were necessary as part of my treatment and the chemotherapy that made me violently ill but ultimately helped save my life. I remember my family right by my side for every step of the fight. And I remember St. Jude as a happy place full of hope and love. From the moment I walked into the halls of St. Jude I was greeted by staff who wanted nothing more than to make my treatment the best that it could be and to ensure that it was as successful as possible. The doctors, nurses, PAs, NPs, and staff made every day a little bit better, every treatment a little more bearable, and helped me to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

 

When the leukemia returned, it was much more challenging and you ended up needing a bone marrow transplant. Tell us about your journey through this period in your life. 

 

I was 12 years old when my leukemia returned. I had been off therapy for less than a year when I started feeling sick again. When my blood tests confirmed that my leukemia had returned I was devastated. I knew what relapse meant back then and I had lost many friends following relapse of their disease. The second chemotherapy protocol was much more challenging physically as well and I did not respond to the chemotherapy. 

I quickly became very sick with multiple different infections and leukemia that was not responding to the chemotherapy that we were trying. I remained in the hospital for months fighting for my life. This was one of the hardest times that I have experienced. I was completely dependent on my family and the doctors, nurses, and staff at St. Jude. Fortunately, because of the hard work done by everyone at St. Jude, my family pushing me to improve every day, and my strong desire to continue to fight, through the Grace of God the multiple infections slowly improved, my cancer went into remission, and I eventually became strong and healthy enough for a bone marrow transplant.

I was very fortunate that my youngest brother Christopher was a “perfect” bone marrow match, so in October of 1993 I began a chemotherapy regimen that completely eradicated my immune system, then I was given my brother’s bone marrow through an infusion and we waited for it to “take effect.” Many of the side effects during and after my transplant were challenging, but I was very blessed that my bone marrow transplant was successful and I have been cancer free since that time.

 

After treatment at St. Jude, you went on to pursue medicine at Midwestern University in Chicago. When did you realize you wanted to pursue medicine as a career? 

 

My desire to pursue a career in medicine came early in my life. My experiences with my treatment at St. Jude helped me to realize early on what a huge difference a great medical team can make in a patient’s life. I was exposed to many different members of the patient care team at St. Jude and realized as I continued schooling that becoming a physician assistant was a perfect fit for my career goals and desire to practice medicine. 

I went to the University of Illinois for my undergraduate degree and received my Bachelors of Science, then I went to Midwestern University and received my Masters in Physician Assistant Studies. Both of these schools helped to prepare me for the job that I now do every day.

 

You now work at St. Jude as a PA in the Oncology Department. Take us through a typical day at work for you. 

 

I work as a Physician Assistant primarily in our outpatient leukemia and lymphoma clinic. My job is focused on patient care. On a typical day I come into work, look at the schedule of patients that we are seeing in clinic, and start my day. I work closely with a great team of physicians, PAs, NPs, nurses, clinical pharmacists, and nutritionists in our clinic setting. I work specifically alongside a few great physicians and depending on the day either the physician or I will see our patients. 

I begin most of my days by looking up my patient’s lab work results before I see them (so that I can plan their chemotherapy, medications, or anything that they will need during the day). Then, I go see my patient and find out how they are doing, examine them and discuss what they need and plans for the day. After I see my patient I order their chemotherapy, fluids, blood products, or any medications that they need, schedule their return visit then move on to seeing my next patient. My job also includes doing our patient’s procedures (bone marrow aspirations and biopsies, lumbar punctures with intrathecal chemotherapy, skin biopsies, etc). I also intermittently work on our inpatient leukemia service, seeing and taking care of patients when they are admitted to the hospital as well. I spend my days taking care of patients and helping to make their treatment better in any way that I can.

 

What is your favorite aspect of your job? What do you find most challenging? 

 

I love taking care of my patients.  I feel so lucky that our patients and families let me into their “little world” and allow me to be a part of their care. The best days are days when I can celebrate special moments with my patients. From little things like hearing that a new medication is helping and the patient is feeling better or being able to tell my patient about a good test result, to the big ones like celebrating birthdays and our patient’s last day of chemotherapy with a “No More Chemo” party.

The most challenging part of my job is losing my patients. St. Jude is an amazing hospital that offers hope when there is often nowhere else to turn, but sometimes we do everything that we can and it is not enough.

When one of our patients is at the end of their life all I can do is try to support my patient and his or her family any way that I am able to.

 

How do you deal with the emotional demands of your job?

 

My strong faith and a great support system help me deal with the emotional demands that come with taking care of our St. Jude patients and not always being able to make them better. I am a Christian and have a strong faith in Jesus Christ. I pray a lot about our patients, for guidance to help them in any way that I can and for guidance to our team as we make decisions that are life altering for so many. My faith helped me get through the hardest times when I was a patient and my faith helps me to get through the hardest days at work.

I also have a great support system that is very helpful in dealing with the challenging aspects of my job. My husband also works at St. Jude as a nurse and he understands firsthand what it feels like to care for very sick children. He is a great support for me and is always there to listen to me, to pray with me, and just to be there on the good days and the bad ones. My parents are a great support system as well, as they understand so much about what goes into taking care of a patient at St. Jude.

 

What is it like working for the same hospital that you received treatment at? What is special about St. Jude for you? 

 

It is an amazing feeling to work for St. Jude. Little things, like walking by a waiting room that I spent hours sitting in or working alongside some of the doctors, PAs, NPs, nurses, teachers, and staff that helped to take care of me so many years ago is a really special feeling. I have a sense of accomplishment from achieving my goal to return to St. Jude and take care of patients and at the same time a desire to do anything and everything that I can to help the patients that I am lucky enough to care for. St. Jude is special to me because we offer the same hope to our patients today that was offered to me so many years ago.

 

If you could have lunch with any woman, who would it be and why? 

 

One of the only drawbacks to moving to Tennessee to work at St. Jude was moving away from my family.

Although my family only lives about seven hours away, I still miss little things like sitting down and having lunch or coffee with my parents or my siblings.

If I could have lunch with any woman tomorrow I would have lunch with my mother, Lynne. Both of my parents were amazing supports and caregivers while I was a patient, but my father had to work full-time to support my family so my mother stayed home and raised four children while being a full-time caregiver to her child with cancer. She sacrificed her career and gave up much of her life to spend all of her time taking care of me. From making sure that I took every one of my medications on time to learning how to change my line dressing, to sitting with me for countless hours day after day waiting for doctors’ visits, labs, medications, chemo, tests, and test results, she was always by my side. She cried with me when I had a bad day or received bad news, made me soup or warm drinks when nothing else sounded good, and was there to celebrate the good news and enjoy the good days as well. I am so thankful for an amazing mother that gave up so much to help me live and grow into the person that I am today.

 

What advice would you give to your 23-year-old self?

 

I would tell myself to keep up the hard work. All of the seemingly endless hours in classes, the sleepless nights up studying, and the long days working challenging jobs will be worth it in the end!

 

September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. To donate to the St. Jude mission, click here. For careers at St. Jude, click here

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