Sixteen-year-old Erika Ross is hoping to become a pediatric oncology nurse. When she graduates and completes her training, she will be able to provide specialized care for children with cancer. Only two years ago, Erika was one of those children.

Before she was diagnosed with a rare germ cell tumour, the Surrey teenager had a busy life filled with high-school commitments and dance lessons. After multiple surgeries and chemotherapy, Erika is now back at school and starting to dance again.

For Erika, cancer treatment and time away from school has had both a positive and a negative impact on her life.

“Cancer in a way has matured me, and that’s good. But in a way it’s taken away my years of being a silly teenager.”

Erika’s experience as a patient in the Pediatric Oncology Program at Surrey Memorial Hospital has also inspired her to change her career goal from teaching to nursing.

“I think I would make a good nurse,” she says. “Because I have been through it.”

Erika received her cancer treatment and follow up at both BC Children’s Hospital and Surrey Memorial. Being able to receive some of her care at Surrey was a big advantage, as both of her parents work near the hospital.

Over the past two years, Pediatric Oncologist Dr. Derek Prevost, Nurse Clinician Janis Gurney and the rest of the Surrey team have started to “feel like family” to Erika.

Erika is already making strides toward her chosen career, as she now volunteers in the Pediatric Oncology Program to work on crafts with patients.

It’s all part of therapy, Janis explains, as participating in crafting or other group activities takes away the awkwardness and help teenagers share their experiences with each other. “If you can get them talking, it’s very significant, but it’s difficult to get them to do that.”

Janis notes that parents also appreciate the opportunity to meet Erika, as she is living proof that the majority of children will survive cancer. This is particularly important for families who have come from countries where children with cancer invariably die.

When high-school graduation comes around, Erika plans to give a big “shout out” in the year book to recognize the doctors and nurses who have been part of her life for the past two years.

The Foundation is raising funds to transform and expand the Children’s Health Centre, which is home to the Pediatric Oncology Program.  To make a donation to the Caring for Kids Closer to Home campaign, click here.

Photo:  Dr. Prevost, Erika Ross, and Nurse Clinician Janis Gurney