Saturday, September 6, 2014

The Curly-Haired Girls Club

When I was on treatment I was very fortunate to have such an incredible medical team. They all took such good care of me and were so supportive of me and my family. My primary team consisted of three wonderful ladies, Sarah Leary, Cory Hoeppner, and Katie Steffl. Katie named our little group “the Curly Haired Girls Club” since she, Dr. Leary and I had curly hair. Cory has wavy hair and my mom used to have curly hair, so we figured that counted too.

My team was headed by my fabulous oncologist, Dr. Sarah Leary. She steered us through the long road of cancer treatment and recovery. She was very good at explaining the entire treatment process. She would discuss what was happening in the present while keeping a long range view on what was yet to come. It meant so much to me that even though I was still considered a "child," she wanted me to have a say in my treatment. She explained everything to me and not just to my parents. She made me feel a part of decision-making instead of feeling like things were happening to me. Her role in my life has changed over the past five years. She went from expert care giver to longtime friend and supporter. No matter how her role in my life changes, she will always be the fearless leader of the “Curly Haired Girls Club.” I couldn't have had a better oncologist and supporter.

[Dr. Leary and I at my last chemo]

It wasn’t until a few weeks after diagnosis that I met one member of my team. I finally got to put a face to the name and met the legend herself, Cory Hoeppner, nurse practitioner extraordinaire. Into the room came this red-haired Canadian woman who kept the laughs rolling with the brand of sarcasm that fell right in line with my family's sense of humor. Cory is one of the smartest people I know. She has worked in the oncology field for many years and knows all the tricks of the trade. She got me through the day-to-day challenges of being a cancer patient with all sorts of magic home remedies for the various side effects I experienced from treatment. Cory has continued to be a go to person for information, for both me and my inquisitive brother. I will be forever grateful for her expert care, snappy wit, and unending support. She made such a personal connection that she began to feel like “my Cory.”  It wasn't until the 2010 Run of Hope that I realized she was everybody's Cory. That she made a special connection with each patient and family that came through the brain tumor clinic.

[Katie, Me & Cory]

Rounding out my main team was Katie Steffl, RN, who taught us everything we needed to know about the do's and don'ts of being a cancer patient. Katie had a positive and sunny attitude that always made me feel better. Over the year we spent together she became almost big sister like. Katie’s first task was teaching us “The Book” on cancer treatment. “The Book” is a three-inch binder filled with all the information a patient and their family needs to know while being treated for cancer. She patiently worked through the book with my parents while I was recovering from brain surgery and finished her lessons when my mom and I came in for clinic visits. In the many visits to the clinic that followed Katie would always stop in to see how I was doing or if I need anything. One of my funniest memories of Katie was when she brought me a bag of Doritos after I was prescribed Marinol (and anti-nausea drug that is derived from marijuana). Before I was prescribed the drug we had joked that it should come with a bag of Doritos.
Although she has moved to a different position at Seattle Children’s she still stops to chat if she sees me when I come into the clinic. No matter where she goes within the hospital, she will always be the founding member of the Curly Haired Girls Club.

Other members of my super-team included hem/onc M.A. Cindy, and the many wonderful nurses of the infusion center including; Aaron, Heather, Jen, Gen, Erin, Anna, Kirsten, Tracy, Kelly, Robin, Marcy and many more.


 [Top Left -Cindy; Top Right - Heather; 2nd Row Left - Erin; Right - Aaron; Bottom Center - Gen & Marcy]

This amazing team helped me through the most difficult year of my life and I don't know what I would've done without them.

Mischief Managed,

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