As Jasmine was pushed down the hall in her wheelchair, the song “Girl On Fire” played throughout 7 South, the hematology/oncology unit at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital. It was the moment that "Jazzy" and her mom, Christine, had been waiting for–closing the chapter on chemotherapy by ringing the symbolic bell. They were surrounded by all of the clinical staff who took care of Jazzy for months on end.
“It was everything that I thought it would be,” Jasmine says. “When I stood up to ring it, to me–everyone went silent. I was in the moment and didn’t hear anything but just the song.”
That song had a lot of sentiment behind it.
“The reason she chose that song was because she was on the track team, and her nickname was ‘J-Flame,’ so the song was perfect,” Christine says.
Jasmine, 15, also was passionate about dancing. Because she was so active and athletic, they knew something was wrong when her symptoms weren’t adding up.
“Whenever I would dance, I was feeling so weak,” she says. “It was really weird because I’ve always been very strong and able to run, dance and do whatever. I also had bruises all over my body.”
Christine took Jasmine to the doctor and had bloodwork done. Within 48 hours they received a call back from their physician saying the Emergency Center at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital was waiting for them.
“I said, ‘What? What’s going on?’” Christine recalls.
When they arrived, there was more bloodwork. Soon after, they found out Jasmine had leukemia. Colin Moore, M.D., became their oncologist and that is when a new connection and level of comfort bloomed. Moore is a cancer survivor himself and was diagnosed right around the same age as Jasmine.
“Establishing a trusting care relationship is key to guiding a patient and family through a new cancer diagnosis,” Moore explains. “I have a unique advantage in the care of patients like Jasmine to utilize the insights that I have from my own experiences as a teenage cancer patient to build a trusting relationship.”
Jasmine had Burkitt leukemia, a fast-growing type of blood cancer that is rare in the United States with about 1,200 cases diagnosed a year, generally in adults. It often starts with too many white blood cells forming in the lymph nodes but can then spread to blood and bone marrow.
“When we heard rare, it freaked us out,” Christine says. “I remember sitting there just looking at him–lost, and he had all the answers. I just looked at him and I said, ‘OK, Dr. Moore–I’m going to stand up. Will you stand up with me and take my hand, and let’s take our first step together in this journey? And he said, ‘yes.’”
And he did just that. Moore was at their side from the beginning until the bell ringing.
“I remember holding Christine’s hand walking down the hall to Jasmine’s room knowing that her incredibly supportive family would help carry her through all of her treatment and recovery,” Moore says. “It was an honor to be there from her very first days in the hospital through watching her stand and ring the bell with pride and excitement.”
“He’s just been amazing,” Christine says. “Not just as a doctor, but the support. You know, from experience. Dr. Moore would kneel down to Jazzy–eye to eye. He wasn’t talking down at her, he was talking to her, and she felt it.”
Treatment was about six phases long and was initially going to take six to nine months–but Jasmine? She completed it in four.
“Despite being rare, Jasmine’s cancer tends to respond very well to treatment and her determination and endless spirit carried her through into remission,” Moore says.
Jasmine will now have follow-ups for the next five years. But she isn’t focused on that. She is focused on following in Moore’s footsteps as an oncologist. The gifted and talented honors student always wanted to be a physician, but now she’s certain she wants to help others battling cancer.
"I always wanted to help people,” she says. “But one day when I was sitting here in the bed, and I decided I should be an oncologist, because I’ve gone through the experience, so why not help others?”
Moore already has told her he would be writing a great recommendation letter–and even said they could have offices right next to each other.
“To see Jasmine focused on becoming an oncologist as well, I know that she will use her experiences to benefit those in need for decades to come,” Moore says. “I look forward to a time where her patients are inspired by her story as well–'I want to be a doctor like Dr. Jasmine when I grow up!'”
Visit https://www.hopkinsallchildrens.org/services/cancer-institute for more information about the Johns Hopkins All Children's Cancer & Blood Disorders Institute.