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chart a course and live your adventure

When Bryna Nathan of Bakersfield began her yearlong round of chemotherapy at Children’s Hospital, a pediatric oncology registered nurse especially helped make the rigorous treatments a little more tolerable.

“Jocelyn (Alsdorf) kept Bryna entertained,” recalled Regina Nathan, whose daughter was diagnosed at nearly 3 years old with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), the most common form of childhood cancer. “She kept her calm and alleviated the stress.”

Nine years later, Bryna’s favorite nurse who is now program coordinator for the Hospital’s Childhood Cancer Survivorship Program is playing a significant role in Bryna’s life again. Recently celebrating her fifth year cancer-free, Bryna participates in the program that helps her and other childhood cancer survivors prepare for a healthier future.

“Bryna is the same incredible girl – spunky and fun,” said Jocelyn with a smile. “It’s wonderful to work with her on this side of things.”

Due to improved therapies and supportive care, nearly 85 percent of children treated for cancer today will become long-term survivors. But powerful cancer treatments also put them at risk for long-term health problems. Two out of three survivors will suffer a late effect, many of whom require ongoing medical support. Late effects can be physical and emotional, and may affect organs, tissues, body function, growth, development, learning, memory and more.

The survivorship program provides a comprehensive evaluation of the cancer survivor’s health and academic and social development, as well as patient education about their diagnosis, treatment, potential late effects and how to maintain excellent health. The program also partners with the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and the Cancer Legal Resource Center to develop and provide related educational programs for patients and caregivers.

In Bryna’s case, her cancer went into remission following her initial chemotherapy. The ALL later relapsed and she required a bone marrow transplant, which involved total-body irradiation and chemotherapy before the transplant.

“Bryna epitomizes a survivor,” said Dr. John Gates, program director and pediatric hematologist/oncologist. “She overcame setbacks not only to survive but thrive.”

Bryna and her mom acknowledge the road hasn’t been easy but together they persevered.

“We had amazing doctors and nurses at Children’s,” said Regina. “We knew we’re in the right place.”

Focused on keeping healthy, Bryna has a clear vision for her future. “I want to be a fashion designer,” she said proudly, pulling out several sketch books featuring her original drawings. “If you believe in yourself, you can do anything!”

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