INDIANAPOLIS — Childhood cancer remains the leading cause of death by disease for children under the age of 14, according to the National Cancer Institute.
September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. A Central Indiana freshman at Marian University has been inspired from her cancer battle as she starts her career path to becoming a pediatric nurse.
It has been ten years since 19 year old Jade Finley learned what would change her life forever.
“The results came back that I had thyroid cancer,” says Finley. “The cancer had moved from my thyroid, to my lymph nodes and through that transferred to my lungs.”
She had to have an extensive thyroidectoomy and it was later discovered that she had 50 to 100 tiny tumors sprinkled throughout her lungs.
“They removed my entire thyroid and about 55 of my lymph nodes in my neck and it left me with a 12 inch scar from here to the back of my ear,” explains Finley. “As a result of my surgery, one of my vocal cords was paralyzed so my voice is pretty weak and I have a hard time speaking loudly. And in terms of my lungs, I developed pretty severe asthma from it.”
For her tumors, a person can have up to three radioactive iodine treatments in a lifespan. Finley has already had it twice, which has allowed her lung tumors to remain under control.
Now, living with her scars from a decade-long battle with cancer, Finley just started her freshman year at Marian University. It is her experiences in the hospital that inspired her to become a nurse.
“I understand you know the process and the stress of going through a ton of treatments and I feel like I could give back to anyone else who is going through a similar situation that I did,” says Finley.
Her diagnosis came as a surprise to her family, Finley says no one even noticed anything was wrong until a quick visit to the doctor for what was her brother’s appointment, when a doctor did a quick check on her too.
“As an ear nose and throat, head and neck surgeon, we see a small amount of it, most pediatric cancers are the blood born things like the leukemias, that people are familiar with, or brain tumors, so pediatric cancers to the head and neck region like Jade had, particularly thyroid, are in the lower numbers in the total number of pediatric cases,” says Dr. Richard Miyamoto, Pediatric Otolaryngology, Ear, Nose & Throat at Peyton Manning Children's Hospital at Ascension St. Vincent.
Dr. Miyamoto was Finley’s surgeon at Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital at Ascension St. Vincent. With September being Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, he urges parents to not stray from their doctors, even amid a pandemic.
“I think it is always good to be aware of your kids and changes in the bodies,” explains Dr. Miyamoto. “So in our area, unusual lumps or masses in the neck that don't go away or abnormal breathing problems would be our takeaway.”
From the surgeon who helped Finley through her cancer journey, Dr. Miyamoto believes because of what Finley has been through, it will help the future nurse shine because of the empathy she will have for her patients.
“If there is another little kid that has a similar situation to me, I can just be like that happened to me and everything is going to be fine,” says Finley.
Finley says she specifically chose Marian University because it has a close association with Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital at Ascension St. Vincent. She wants to work there after she graduates.