Each September, Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital takes part in celebrating Childhood Cancer Awareness Month and the extraordinary children facing this illness. But behind every patient and family is a clinician-led care team that works tirelessly to provide comfort, support and the best treatment possible. It can be easy for patients and their family to feel frustrated and overwhelmed sometimes, but an understanding care team can help make things a little easier.
This is something that Colin Moore, M.D., a pediatric oncologist at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital Cancer and Blood Disorders Institute, knows better than most. It’s a reality that he experienced firsthand when, two days before his 16th birthday, he was diagnosed with Ewing Sarcoma, a bone tumor usually seen in adolescents. From diagnosis to final surgery, treatment lasted a full year, followed by another year of physical therapy. During that time he felt all the ups and downs that children and teens with cancer typically face, from therapy delays and treatment toxicities to weight loss and struggling to keep up with school work.
“Adolescence is hard enough with all the transitions you’re going through, let along having to balance chemotherapy, school, friends, and everything else that you are trying to do,” says Dr. Moore. Though it has now been more than 18 years since his diagnosis, nearly every day he combines the lessons he learned as a patient with his medical training to provide care and understanding to kids fighting cancer.
While pursuing a career in the medical profession was always his goal, pediatric oncology was not originally in the plan. It wasn’t until he was completing a pediatrics rotation during medical school that everything changed.
“I did several weeks on the pediatric oncology service and instantly knew that this was where I needed to dedicate my career,” explains Dr. Moore. “I knew that I could offer these families and patients the clinical care that I learned in residency and fellowship and also provide insights into their care that few other physicians could offer because of my own experience as a cancer patient.”
A cancer diagnosis is stressful for not only the child undergoing treatment, but also for the family unit as a whole. It can completely turn lives upside down. Parents and caregivers quickly transition from a place where they control most aspects of their child’s life to losing almost all control. They cannot control when the final diagnosis will be made, when treatment will start or how sick their child will be, or what life will be like in the future.
“Having seen my family struggle with this issue, I make a strong effort to have families try to focus on the things that they can control and leave the things they cannot control in the hands of their care team,” adds Dr. Moore. “I try to give families tips and tricks that helped my family and I cope with the side effects and stresses of the treatments.”
Childhood cancer can be a long and difficult journey, but when teamed up with care providers like Dr. Moore and others at Johns Hopkins All Children’s, it is a path that families don’t need to walk alone.