Patient Stories 2008

Kids With Courage

Patient Stories 2008

Kids With Courage brings together children that have received oncology care at UW Children's Hospital, now known as the American Family Children's Hospital. Each year during the reunion celebration, individual's whose lives have been touched by cancer are selected to be the event emcee's. Below are the stories of the Kids With Courage IV emcees.

John Gabrielson, Emcee at American Family Children's Hospital's Kids With Courage IVJon Gabrielson
Age: 18
Hometown: Appleton

I was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia at age seven. A memory that comes to mind when I think about my time in the hospital came from a time in the hospital school. I was talking to a kid and asked what he was there for and he calmly just said "A liver transplant," and lifted his shirt and showed me his staples. It's interesting how young kids at the hospital could connect to all different sorts of people through a common theme.

Although I might have turned out similar if I didn't have cancer, I'd like to think that it shaped me into the person I am today. Now, I am a very understanding person who likes to help others when the opportunity arises. As a young kid, dealing with all the adults during my treatment has made me more confident and sure of myself. Another way that it has influenced my life was how it brought me closer to music and movies, something that I could enjoy while in a hospital bed and now am planning to base a career on.

I just graduated from high school and am going to attend college in the fall. I enjoy playing drums, piano and guitar, with a side dish of acting.

Peter Greenwood; Emcee at American Family Children's Hospital's Kids With Courage IVPeter Greenwood
Age: 23
Hometown: Spring Green, Wisconsin

I was diagnosed at age 18 with Osteogenic Sarcoma in my left knee. After the cancer spread to my lungs and lymph nodes I had my left leg amputated above the knee. I have now been in remission for approximately two years.

If there is a saying that describes my outlook on life it is something like this: "For everything you lose there is twice as much to hold on to." In a matter of a few weeks, I went from being a high school senior on his way to college, to a sick and scared hairless boy. I had no idea what the future held, including if I would be part of it or not. This made for a rough three years of fighting cancer. Yet, I got through it.

Needless to say I didn't make it on my own. There were a few things that helped me when I got down; one of them being family and friends, the other being music. I have a large and close family. My parents were there every step of the way and my brothers and sisters were there whenever their lives permitted. Through my experience I have realized more and more that a strong family makes the individual family members strong as well.

Music was the other key to my survival. I begin playing guitar at a young age and as I got farther along in my treatment, I started writing songs. There wasn't a better way to express the emotions that I was feeling. Music continues to play an important role in my life as I play in a band with my brother, sister and four of our good friends.

Since my remission I have begun to start life anew. I am currently attending the University of Wisconsin-Madison and studying psychology. I hope to someday work in a hospital with adolescents and young adults facing serious health issues. I spend my spare time training for marathons on my Hand Cycle and Whitewater Kayaking every chance I get.

Jeanette Smith; Emcee at American Family Children's Hospital's Kids With Courage IVJeanette (Scribner) Smith
Age: 37
Hometown: Dousman, Wisconsin 

Cancer has entered my world at two very different times in my life and with it came two very different paths to healing. I will never forget the day I was diagnosed with Acute Myelogenous Leukemia. I was 12-years-old, and my brothers and sisters were waiting at our house with stunned looks as my parents and I packed for Madison for what we knew would be a long stay. This was the beginning of a year-long, scary road to healing including chemotherapy, radiation, a bone-marrow transplant, and every possible complication that comes along with these.

Cancer's second knock on my door came 22 years later when I was 34 years old. This time it was breast cancer. This path to healing, although painful, included no chemotherapy and radiation. Although I did have to have a double mastectomy, the doctors caught it so early that death was never a thought.

UW Hospital is responsible for saving my life from cancer twice now. Once by fighting the battle with me and once by forewarning me of possible long-term side effects, as the breast cancer was due to my past radiation. Follow-up ….a much smoother route to continued healing. Now I can once again soak up the life I live with my wonderful husband and two dogs.

Lindsay Secard; Emcee at American Family Children's Hospital's Kids With Courage IVLindsay Secard
Age 23
Hometown: Madison, Wisconsin

Appointments, chemotherapy, surgery, relapse, remission, and again relapse. I've been through it all, except I have never had cancer.

My older brother, Brent, was diagnosed with Osteosarcoma in the fall of 1994 when he was 13 years old. Looking back, I had no idea what cancer was or the effect it would have on my life. I was ten years old at the time and purely amazed by life inside a hospital. I sat in Brent's hospital room many times, feeling guilty that it wasn't me in the bed. Sometimes, I was even jealous. As I started to understand more of what was going on, I felt purely helpless.

I do not remember exactly what the nurses, psychologists, and social workers at UW Children's Hospital did or what they said, but I will always remember the comfort they provided for my family. They were a cornerstone in providing my family with the hope that fueled our courage.

Brent's battle lasted four years, during which time he endured multiple surgeries. In the summer of 1998 the cancer became too much for his body and he was discharged home with Hospice care.

The courage that I saw in Brent throughout his life is an incredible aspect of my life and I feel truly honored that he is my brother. I had always wanted to be a nurse while he was sick, but gave up that dream after he passed away. This fall will be 10 years since his passing. His courage has enabled me to find comfort and peace in my life as well as my own courage.

I am a recent graduate from the Edgewood College School of Nursing, and I work at Meriter in the Heart Hospital. I think of Brent's courage everyday as I endure the physical and emotional aspects of being a nurse.

Dustin Wisch; Emcee at American Family Children's Hospital's Kids With Courage IVDustin Wisch
Age: 22
Hometown: Sun Prairie, Wisconsin

Looking back at the odds I have overcome in my battle against this disease, I realize just how much of my success I can attribute to the support I have had. Realizing the amount of love and support that I am surrounded by is just one of the gifts that I have received during my battle with this disease. I've often heard people say that I am a strong person for having gone through all of this, but I am only as strong as those who have been there behind me.

Even though the effects of my tumor are still with me today, I realize that I have grown in enormous leaps and bounds as a person because of my experience. The things that going through all the surgeries, treatment, and rehabilitation have taught me about life greatly overshadow the negative aspects that this illness has, and I am grateful for all that I have learned.

Today, being four years out from my last surgery, I am attending UW-Whitewater in pursuit of my degree in Special Education and working in a home with adults with disabilities. I hope to finish up school in about a year, and find a job in my field shortly after and sharing the great lessons my experience has taught me.

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