Each year, close to 12,500 children in the U.S. are diagnosed with cancer. Among them who live in the Upper Midwest, more than 70 percent are treated by Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota. This week we shared Jenna Carnes’ cancer journey on Twin Cities Moms Blog. Jenna is one of many teens we see in Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Clinic each week, and just like every pediatric cancer patient, her journey is a unique one.
“Like all of our patients, we want Jenna to still be a kid and not to have to grow up too quickly because of the disease she’s dealing with,” said Dr. Joanna Perkins, Jenna’s treating physician in the Cancer and Blood Disorders Clinic at Children’s. “With the suite of treatment options we offer, Jenna’s been able to get back to being a normal teen.”
Beginning with the Child Life department, Jenna utilized many of Children’s support services to help her in her healing journey. From how to talk about cancer with her friends at school to going to surprise Minnesota Twins baseball games with her family, Jenna said her child life specialists made each day that she was at the hospital just a little easier. This was a welcome relief for her family.
“What makes Children’s different than any other hospital are the services we offer that go above and beyond standard inpatient care,” said Dr. Perkins. “From the supportive care – ranging from physical therapy, psychology and nutrition specialists, music therapy, massage and pain and palliative care – to special events geared towards the whole family, we try to make the time kids and families have to spend in the hospital as good as it can be. A lot of kids appreciate the simple things, too – big TVs and video games.”
In addition to Children’s in-house services, many patients (including Jenna) go to Camp Courage in Maple Lake, Minn., to “just be a kid” for a week each summer. The camp also provides patients’ families with a much-needed break. With Children’s staff physicians and nurses, onsite, to administer medication and keep close watch on their patients, patients and their siblings take part in time-honored camp traditions and let loose for the week.
“Kids of all ages are there, and we’re all going through something really similar,” said Jenna. “There are no strange looks.”
As Jenna and her family prepare to celebrate the end of her chemotherapy treatments, Jenna’s care team at Children’s will be by her side, cheering her on at her end-of-treatment party on June 12. Soon, Jenna will be a part of Children’s Destination STAR (Surveillance and Testing After Recovery) Clinic, which assists her with the transition to life after cancer therapy. She’ll work with Children’s Health and Wellness Team, consisting of staff members from oncology, nutrition services, physical therapy, psychology and child life, as well as her primary care physician for wellness visits to make sure the cancer does not return.
“Going to the hospital for cancer treatments will never be fun,” said Jenna. “But, I’m honestly going to miss coming to Children’s – it’s almost become a second home.”
Visit Children’s Hospitals and Clinics’ Cancer and Blood Disorders Clinic for more information. Children’s first annual Shine Bright Bash on Sept. 13 is to celebrate and support the advancements in pediatric cancer and blood disorder care.