A Pediatric Cancer Nurse's Nightmare
- Pediatric cancer nurse Karen Jabczenski went through every parent’s nightmare when her daughter Ave, 9, was diagnosed with brain cancer—and wound up getting care at her same hospital.
- The Michigan mom of two thankfully had her colleagues looking after her, making sure she didn’t overdo it as parent and nurse.
- The survival rate for children with cancer has improved an incredible amount over the past few decades—currently nearly 90% of children diagnosed with the disease will survive.
At 9 years old, Ava started having severe migraines, and luckily doctors were able to find—and remove—a cancerous brain tumor. But the battle was far from over for the little girl.Read More
Thankfully, Ava was in extra good care with her mother’s colleagues.
Jabczenski reflected on when her daughter was first diagnosed.
“We all felt an extra sense of compassion and concern,” Anne Binder, a pediatric hematology/oncology nurse at Beaumont Royal Oak, expressed. “We were just very stunned when she (Ava) was diagnosed,” she added.
The care team would wear Team Ava shirts on Wednesdays to help keep Ava’s spirits up, but Binder made sure to note that they treat all the kids with extra love. “Ava and all of our children are so special, and I just try to treat them as compassionately as I would want my own child treated,” Binder said. The crew of nurses also tries to keep Ava’s mom more removed from having to care for her daughter as she would another patient. “We’ve done some things to kind of help Karen so that she kind of stays in that parent role,” Binder said.
“It hasn’t been easy, especially when I know what I know, but that’s what I’ve done, and that’s what their support is helped me to do is be a mom to my child with cancer,” Jabczenski shared, also mentioning that this journey with her own daughter has helped her care for others even more as she now unfortunately knows exactly what they’re going through.
Parent and Caregiver to a Child with Pediatric Cancer
Caring for a child who is battling cancer is incredibly difficult — while you want to be strong for them, its also an extremely emotional time. It’s hard to say whether being a pediatric cancer nurse made things more or less difficult for Karen. On the one side, she was able to immediately recognize symptoms and get her in to some medical professionals that she knows and trusts, but on the flip side, she deals with the major downsides of cancer every day with these kids, which can make it more traumatizing to go through it with your own, especially if she hasn’t seen an abundance of positive outcomes from the job side of things.
However, it’s important for parents to know that the survival rate for children with cancer has improved an incredible amount over the past few decades—currently nearly 90% of children diagnosed with the disease will survive. Still, playing the role of caregiver and mom for a child with cancer is really difficult, and then add being a nurse on top of it in Karen’s case. There’s a thin line between wanting to be strong for your child, and dealing with the emotions that come with watching your child suffer.
NYC-based photographer Jayne Wexler recently sat down with SurvivorNet to discuss her son Justice’s experience battling acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL). The family has been through treatment, relapses, and recovery together.
“Being a caregiver is a huge job,” Jayne said. “Fortunately, my husband and family were very supportive … it’s really hard to see your child go through this. If it could be me, I would take it in a second. You just go on auto-pilot and you just do what you have to do.”
Jayne also touched on the many components that go into dealing with cancer. As a parent caring for a child with the disease, that doesn’t leave a lot of time to sit down and deal with your own emotions.
“You don’t have that much time for yourself,” Jayne said. “I try to stay strong, but then sometimes you just want to go and cry, and you need to cry … it’s good to cry.”
Personally, Jayne found therapy to be really helpful. Pediatric cancer is a lot for a family to go through, Jayne said, and just having someone to talk you through it can make a huge difference