As the late great Craig Sager said, “I will live my life full of life and full of fun. It’s the only way I know how.”
I am so thankful to be able to live this life every single day.
I was diagnosed with Burkitt’s Lymphoma when I was a sophomore in high school. I underwent four intense rounds of chemotherapy and missed four months of school. To say it was a rough time, is an understatement. I lost my hair, I was sick, and I was weak. During that time, I was missing out on being a “normal” 15-year-old.
The people in my life helped get me through my darkest days. My parents stayed with me every night in the hospital, and my siblings, despite obviously struggling with the fact that their brother was battling such a serious disease, were by my side every step of the way. My grandparents, extended family, and friends did everything they could to make sure that our sole focus was on making me better. Whether that was picking up my brother from school or preparing a meal for us, my community and support system stepped up and uplifted us through my entire journey.
The people that work in the hospital became like family. I trusted my doctors as they chose the best treatment plan for me. They cared for me, as well as my family, understanding the emotional turmoil a cancer diagnosis has on the entire family. My nurses were out of this world, every single nurse on 9B that I met greeted me with a smile and made me feel special. They watched musicals with me, listened to me sing, and made it obvious that they deeply cared about my well-being.
Music therapy became a major part of my time at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh. Nicole would knock on my door and ask if we could hang out. She would bring in her guitar and a keyboard for me as we played our hearts out for an hour! She’d ask what songs I was working on recently and would harmonize as I let out all the stress, frustration, and sadness that was inside of me with each passing day of monotonous chemotherapy.
Arlyn in housekeeping became one of my best friends. He would visit me and talk about the latest basketball games. On his lunch break during my worst round of chemo, he drew me a picture of Kermit the Frog. Arlyn is the definition of a “sunshine soldier.” He was able to take my scary diagnosis and brighten my day with his infectious smile and authentic joy for life. He is a forever friend, and I am so grateful that UPMC Children’s brought him into my life.
Thanks to the support of my family, community, and my UPMC Children’s family, I am officially a cancer survivor and five years cancer free! I also have a new passion for life and nonprofit development. This summer, I am interning at UPMC Children’s Hospital Foundation and Make-A-Wish Greater Pittsburgh and West Virginia. None of this would have been possible without UPMC Children’s and the Free Care Fund. It allowed my family to focus on solely my recovery and not how we were going to afford my care.
Named for legendary golfer and Latrobe native Arnold Palmer and his wife, Winnie, the Arnold & Winnie Palmer Foundation is committed to making a difference in the lives of children and families.
Sydney was diagnosed with a rare genetic disorder called Urea Cycle Disorder / Ornithine Transcarbamylase deficiency (UCD/OTC) at just one year old.
The new Division of Palliative Medicine and Supportive Care aims to build a future where there are no barriers to this life-changing care.
Within days of his birth, a team of skilled surgeons at UPMC Children’s performed open heart surgery on Lorenzo.
Each spring, a group of hand-selected researchers pitch next generation, budding research concepts to members of the Children’s Trust for a chance at winning seed funding to help kickstart their research.
Learn more about Vanessa and what inspires her to serve UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh so proudly, in her own words.
Throughout our hospital, there are many licensed psychologists dedicated to supporting specific service lines.