September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, and all month long we’ve been sharing photos of some of our shining stars from our cancer and blood disorders program on our social media channels. These beautiful photos are the work of Jonathan Matters, a registered nurse who works in our cancer and blood disorders clinic. Get to know more about Jonathan and what inspired his photography project in this week’s Five Question Friday.
What is your role at Children’s?
I am a registered nurse working at the cancer and blood disorders clinic in the infusion center. I spend a lot of time administering various infusions like chemotherapy, blood products and antibiotics as well as assisting with sedated procedures like lumbar punctures and bone marrow biopsies. I work closely with a large group of professionals dedicated to helping people affected by these horrible diseases. It takes an army of nurses, doctors, child life specialists, social workers, therapists, clinic assistants, volunteers and many more to support children and their families through treatment. I am extremely proud to be part of that team.
How long have you worked at Children’s?
I have worked at Children’s since 2007 when I started as an inpatient nurse on eighth floor, which was the hematology/oncology unit back then. I began in the clinic in 2012.
How do you spend your time outside of work?
I spend my time outside work with my family. My wife and I have 2-year-old and 4-month-old daughters who make our lives rich beyond belief as well as very, very busy. I love photography, which mixes well with our beautiful daughters. I also photograph various hematology/oncology charity events such as Camp VIP, St. Baldrick’s, Pine Tree Apple Tennis Classic, Shine Bright Bash and the CureSearch Walk.
You created a moving photography series of patients from our cancer and blood disorders program. Can you tell us more about this project and what inspired you?
In late August I approached our hematology/oncongology medical director, Dr. Susan Sencer, about an idea for a project for Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. I was inspired by a powerful image of a patient with her mother that was burned into my mind. That mental picture had everything: innocence, strength, beauty, love. Anyone who works with these kids sees this kind of thing often. I wanted to take a photo for each day of the month to show people on the outside what childhood cancer really looks like. Most people don’t really know, and many simply don’t want to know. I thought if I could capture even a fraction of the beauty and strength of these children it would go a long way making people more aware and perhaps even encouraging them to donate to the cause. It happened that Dr. Sencer was meeting with Jimmy Bellamy, Children’s social media specialist, that very afternoon and could relay the idea. He had a parallel project called Shining Stars that was meant to raise money and promote Shine Bright Bash. It was a perfect match. I spent the next several weeks bringing my gear to the clinic and working quick portrait sessions into busy infusion days.
What do you think makes kids amazing?
One thing that consistently amazes me about these kids is their resilience. Treatment puts massive physical and mental strain on these children. Both the disease and the cure assault their minds, bodies and spirits and yet they remain largely intact. All the different personalities also amaze me. No one child is the same but each one is incredibly complex and interesting. They have so much character despite their young age and the fact that they are undergoing a process that would bring a strong adult crashing to their knees. Some are hilarious, some are serious, some are quiet, and some are chatty. You get to know them and their parents very well because you see them at regular intervals over a period of years. You learn how to work with their unique personalities. It is both challenging and rewarding on a scale that few people can appreciate. When I tell people what I do for a living, the No. 1 response is “I couldn’t do that.” They don’t know how amazing these kids are and how rewarding it is to work with them. They don’t understand what it is like to go home with absolutely no doubt that your work meant something to someone.