A childhood cancer survivor has spent the last three years working alongside some of the staff who helped save her over 22 years ago thanks in part to the National Children’s Cancer Society (NCCS), which provided her with a scholarship for her four years of college.
Jennifer Toth, who beat hepatoblastoma as a toddler, said she always knew she wanted to work with childhood cancer patients and their families in some capacity, but it wasn’t until she shadowed nurses and nurse practitioners during a summer program in high school that she knew she found her home.
“[The program] made me think back to the role that nurses and NPs (nurse practitioners) played during my time as a patient,” Toth, 26, told Fox News.
She said that while her entire medical team at Children’s Hospital of Pennsylvania (CHOP) helped support her and her parents who had just learned that their 2-year-old had a softball-sized mass on her liver, it was Pat Brophy, a nurse practitioner who has since died, who stuck out the most.
“Thinking about the nurses who I had known made the decision to become a nurse, and hopefully someday a nurse practitioner, an easy one,” Toth said.
She had learned about the NCCS’s Beyond the Cure Ambassador Scholarship Program through her survivorship program and applied when she decided on University of Pennsylvania’s nursing school. Now back in grad school at UPenn, she said that part of the school’s appeal was the close proximity to several hospitals where she could complete her clinical rotations, including CHOP.
“I always thought that it would be amazing to come full circle and work at the same hospital where I had been a patient,” Toth said.
She accepted a position at CHOP on a surgical unit for a few months before transitioning to her role on the inpatient oncology unit. She said that while she doesn’t hide that she’s a cancer survivor, she only shares her story with her patients and their families when appropriate, such as when they notice her hearing aids and she explains that hearing loss was a side effect of chemotherapy.
“Even when I don’t explicitly share my own diagnosis with my patients, I hope that my experience as a patient and a survivor shapes my nursing practice in a way that conveys deep empathy and understanding,” she said. “Hearing my parents talk about their experience having a child with cancer has also given me more perspective than I would otherwise have into what my patients’ parents experience, which impacts how I interact with parents.”