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September 30, 2014
Thirteen years ago, Alexandria Friesen – then eight-years-old - was a patient at LHSC’s Children’s Hospital, battling for her life against acute myeloblastic leukemia. Today, the 21-year-old Western Psychology major returned to the place she called ‘home’ for eight months, to say thank you at a special celebration in honour of Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.
“To the doctors and nurses here today, thank you. You, very literally, saved my life,” said Friesen. “You fought your hardest for me when I didn’t have the strength to, and I know you do that for each and every patient you meet.”
Dozens of medical professionals, children, parents and special guests were in attendance to hear from Friesen, as well as representatives from key Children’s Hospital partners including the Children’s Health Foundation, Childcan, Pediatric Oncology Group of Ontario (POGO) and Kids Kicking Cancer (KCC).
Attendees were given a glimpse of the work done by the KCC organization in helping children with cancer manage the stress and pain of their disease through techniques of martial arts instruction, breath work and meditation. They also learned about work being done at Children’s by staff in the Art Therapy and Child Life programs, and the impact these programs have on children facing a diagnosis of cancer.
The event provided an opportunity to introduce and welcome the Hon. Justice Stephen Goudge who is the incoming President of the Board of POGO. LHSC has been a member of POGO since the organization was founded 30 years ago, and has received funding for various pediatric cancer programs throughout that time, including the Oncology After-Care Program which provides follow-up care and monitoring to childhood cancer survivors as they move out of the cancer care system.
Friesen is one of those patients, and thanks to the support and care provided by Children’s Hospital and all of the partner organization, today her focus is one of giving back – not looking back. “Since the day I met my Child Life Specialists, I knew I wanted to be just like them when I grew up – and I’m well on my way to doing just that. It is my goal to have the same impact on kids who are sick that they had on me. Cancer gave me a second chance and it is my intention to do something great with it.”