By Jenna Costello ’22, Staff Writer
“You have cancer.”
Three words every person dreads.
For Fisher alumna Sammie Gehl, this became a reality in April of 2014. Only a sophomore in high school at the time, Gehl had to put her life on hold to treat a type of bone cancer called osteosarcoma that developed as a small, painful lump on her kneecap.
One year, 16 rounds of chemotherapy, and three surgeries later, Gehl was in remission, but it came with a cost — her right leg had to be amputated above the knee.
However, rather than allowing her diagnosis to set her back, Gehl used her story to help those just like her.
“My whole life, before cancer, I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but I knew that I wanted to help,” said Gehl. Throughout her treatment, she encountered several nurses who brightened her day and made her recovery journey easier. “After that, I decided that I wanted to do that for other people, and made it my goal to become a pediatric oncology nurse.”
Gehl now works as a registered nurse in the pediatric oncology unit at Strong Memorial Hospital, the same floor that she was treated on. She has even had the pleasure of working alongside some of the nurses that cared for her as she went through treatment.
“As a kid with cancer, being ‘the kid with cancer’ becomes an identity — whether it’s meant to be or not,” Gehl said.
“Cancer treatment isn’t pretty. There’s pain, nausea, hair loss, crying and so much more.” Gehl explained. “The kids that are old enough to understand have a lot of anxiety with treatments and sometimes all we can do to help is sit quietly with them.”
Gehl stressed the importance of allowing these kids to have a childhood and participate in all the activities a normal child would, given the situation. However, that’s not to say that there are no hard times.
“At work, we don’t treat the kids any differently than other regular, healthy kids. We’ve had Nerf fights, played hide-and-seek, colored, watched movies, gossiped about celebrities, danced, and practiced our best runway walks with these kids.”
Although the path ahead of them won’t be easy, the children staying in the Strong pediatric oncology unit are in good hands. They now have a nurse who understands what they are experiencing and can help guide them through it.