From little fingers fluttering in the water over swimming stingrays to fearless heads poking into the gaping jaw of a large shark bone, dozens of smiling faces from Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital took over the Florida Aquarium on June 4 for National Cancer Survivor Day.
Johns Hopkins All Children’s invited current and former cancer patients who are off therapy to the event, which included lunch, an afternoon with sharks and dolphins and even a splash pad. The day included several adults who long-ago celebrated their own cancer success stories at Johns Hopkins All Children’s showing up with their own children.
“More than 175 patients, family and hospital staff gathered for a quick speech by Dr. Peter Shaw, deputy director of the Cancer & Blood Institute, then got to spend a day in the ocean, so to speak,” says Lindsay Jones, R.N. II, planner of this year’s fourth survivor day celebration.
“September is all about Pediatric Cancer Awareness, but this is something different,” she explains. “These are cancer survivors. It’s really special for everyone here that we get to acknowledge this day,” she continues. “And I don’t just mean the patients. You know, our cancer patients are special to us. They become our family. Some of them are with us for years. Our nurses and physicians work so hard for these kids. For us to have this opportunity to see them healthy, thriving, having fun, it’s amazing. It’s so rewarding.”
Jones describes one young girl who was hospitalized with complications from cancer several years ago.
“She was at the aquarium,” Jones says. “She looked incredible and she couldn’t stop talking about how much she loves science and can’t wait for fourth grade to start. What a moment. I mean, I saw her at her worst, and now she’s going into the fourth grade. Healthy.”
Past Survivor Days have included a Rays game and Busch Gardens. Jones already is looking forward to determining another successful location for what has quickly become her favorite day of the year.