September 27, 2019

After 4 bouts with childhood cancer, this young adult has learned valuable lessons she wants to share.

Your child, best friend, family member or a neighbor was just diagnosed with childhood cancer or is a cancer survivor. It’s always going to be hard to be around a diagnosis like this, but it will always be harder for the cancer patient. I know: I am a four-time cancer survivor.

September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. To better highlight it, I thought about my own experience and what I wished others knew about how to interact with me.

Here goes:

Don’t treat me like a china doll.

I know you’re only trying to protect me but I promise I’m not so easily broken. I will tell you when I need “delicate” treatment.

Do remember that I am still human.

The things I’ve endured may seem “out of this world” but I am not. I enjoy the same things other kids my age do and all of our blood runs red.

Don’t turn home life into a hospital.

I know I have to take care of myself and take my medications and treatments, but that doesn’t mean home should be just like the hospital. Be my parent not a doctor. Be my friend, not a nurse. I get that it’s scary, but I can be safe and healthy without the hospital.

Do ask me how I am.

It’s OK to ask me about my medical life and how I am coping with everything. Talking is a great release! What I might share could be a lot to handle and process, but I tell you these things because I love and trust you.

Don’t forget to laugh.

I want you to be happy. If I’m feeling bad it could help seeing you enjoy yourself. Laughing is contagious.

Do include me in your activities.

I still like to have fun. Don’t exclude me because you think I’m too weak or sick. I’ll let you know if I am not up to it. I know we might have to do things differently, but I still need to get out and experience the world.

Don’t speak for me.

I know it seems you are helping when you answer questions for me but you’re doing more harm than good. I need to be able to verbalize my thoughts and thinking process to my peers, doctors and people in general.

Do live your life.

I understand you might want to drop everything to help me, but then I get the short end of the stick because you have no time to unwind and do the things that make you happy. I don’t want you on edge when you are trying to help me. Your life is just as important as mine.

Don’t live my life.

Doing my chores or homework won’t help anyone ever. (I can’t believe I am admitting this!) I might be struggling, but having someone else trying to do my work or scheduling my life won’t help me learn organizational skills or how to prioritize all things to help me become a young adult.


Be aware of childhood cancer.

This post was written by Gigi Pasley, 21, a four-time cancer survivor (AML three times, two bone marrow transplants and osteosarcoma) who lives with the late effects of former treatment. She is the youngest of three children and is enrolled in Columbia State University this fall. She enjoys writing. She wrote a song for the “Everybody Has a Story” CD project, which celebrates the creativity of children and youth at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt and shows how music helps them share their stories and emotions.

To learn more about the Hematology and Oncology programs and services at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt, click here or call 615-936-1762.