A Letter from Rally Kid Peyton to Families Battling Cancer
Dear families experiencing childhood cancer and pediatric palliative care doctors,
I am a Rally Kid and a first-year student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. In my Biology 101 class, we just finished learning about cancer. Sitting in class as one who was diagnosed with cancer when I was teenager (ALL and AML as a sophomore in high school), it was hard to sit still in my seat and listen to my professor explain the traumatic effects of uncontrolled cell division without thinking two things:
- Cancer is so much more than the biology behind the disease.
- Wow, I am really blessed to be on the other side of the battle when so many patients and families today are not.
And whenever I think about how blessed I have been (yes, blessed) with my particular experience, I am always reminded of how great my care team really was to me.
Palliative care was a HUGE part of my cancer journey, as I was constantly in need of ways to manage and relieve my pain that resulted from treatment. Luckily, the palliative care team at CHOA, led by Rally-funded researcher Dr. Katharine Brock, was more than amazing in helping ease my discomfort and make my experience with cancer, though tough, very doable and ultimately successful in more ways than one.
I wish I had walked into my cancer diagnosis knowing that there were incredible people like Dr. Brock who specialized in pain management and who would not stop working with me until I found the relief I was looking for. Knowing this fact prior to receiving treatment would have most certainly changed the way I felt about undergoing certain treatments and dealing with the side effects that came along with the harsh treatments. And not only did Dr. Brock help ease my pain, but she helped give my family peace in knowing that I was finding rest in the midst of so much physical pain.
Cancer is not an easy fight, not for anyone, no matter the prognosis. But as for me, I wouldn’t trade my fight for anything. It has shaped me into who I am today. The care I received from every single one of my doctors and nurses has taught me so much about what it means to care for myself and for others. That care has changed my life so much that I have been inspired to become a nurse myself, and I hope to one day treat my patients with the same love and care that I received from people like Dr. Brock. I am thankful that I can use my story of survival as inspiration for other children fighting cancer, and my story would not be complete without the incredible palliative care I received from Dr. Brock’s incredible team.
If your child is fighting the cancer beast, please reach out to your hospital’s palliative care team. If you are a teenager or young adult fighting cancer, please reach out to your hospital’s palliative care team. They are there to help.
Palliative Care Doctors, thank you for changing my life in ways that I never deemed possible. Thank you for the sacrifices you have made and continue to make in order to give hope to patients like me and families like mine. Thank you for allowing me to look back on my experience with joy and gratitude, both of which are things that doctors like you never failed to show me yourselves. Thank you for encouraging me to go out and live my life.
I am grateful that Rally funds Dr. Brock and other palliative care doctors because they make a big difference. Their work and research are very important.
To the families experiencing the harsh realities of childhood cancer, please hear me when I say that despite the loss I’ve experienced, I’ve gained so much more. In my opinion, a successful battle with cancer is not defined by the end-outcome. It is defined by the things you learn, the lives you touch, and the lives that have touched you. Palliative care doctors, among so many others, have touched my life in innumerable ways. They make a commitment to care for their patients limitlessly, and they want you to find peace in knowing that caring for their patients and making them comfortable is their number one priority.
So back to my biology class. I was squirming in my seat, not because it was hard for me to hear my professor talk about a fatal disease, but because every time I hear the word cancer, I remember how much I’ve been through. How much I’ve learned. And how exciting being a cancer survivor really is.
I pray that every child, adolescent and young adult cancer fighter, really every cancer fighter, wins their battle. But I know that too often, that is not the case. So families, once again, please hear that through the tough decisions, the enduring pain, and the constant unknowns, there is hope. My hope ultimately comes from Jesus Christ, but I also see glimmers of that hope in people like my doctors, my nurses, and the rest of my care team. So know that hope is there, and these people want to give it to you. Don’t be afraid to go to them with open arms, because they have so much to give, they will certainly embrace you with theirs.