Pediatric Cancer: Indy Moms Share Their Stories

This article in brought to you by the 15 Indianapolis Area Locations of Papa Murphy's Pizza

Papa Murphy’s is partnering with the Little Red Door Cancer Agency to raise funds and awareness for Pediatric Cancer this September. Donate in stores or online with the code give 20.

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  • Cancer remains the #1 cause of death by disease for children in America.*

  • Approximately 1 in 285 in the U.S. will be diagnosed with cancer before their 20th birthday.*

  • Each year in the U.S., an estimated 15,780 children aged 0-19 are diagnosed with cancer.*

Thank you Abby and Stayce for sharing your stories with us.

Name: Abby Williams

Where do you live: Meridian Kessler-Indianapolis

Role: Parent and Associate Head of School at St. Richard's Episcopal School

How has Pediatric Cancer affected your life: There are no words to truly articulate how cancer affected my life. The day before our son was diagnosed with cancer, I wasn't a cancer parent either. I used to worry about things that aren’t even on my worry scale today. Today the members of my family can revert into the “pre-cancer” behavior and worry about frivolous things, but we are quickly jolted back with a memory, hearing of a new diagnosis, or simply reflecting on the progress our son has made.

Thankfully, the period when we endured the treatment of our then 3-year old for leukemia for 3.5 years proved to our priorities and ways we see the world. We value health, time with one another, holidays, friendships, and the little things in life a lot more. We have new purpose in our lives which ultimately involves finding a cure for cancer and supporting those on this journey. We have done this by becoming involved with organizations that share this mission such as Little Red Door.

Drake Williams

Drake Williams

What message do you want to share to parents with a child facing Pediatric Cancer: When our son was diagnosed with cancer, I didn’t shower or change out of my pajamas for several days after we had been transported by a Lear jet to Riley Children’s Hospital from being on a vacation in Florida. A nurse took me aside, looked me in the eyes and said, “You are going to have to go home, take a shower, put on normal clothes and set the tone for your family. Everyone will follow your lead.” I went in the bathroom and cried, mostly because I knew she was right. I later discovered that she became a nurse because her son was also diagnosed with Leukemia and eventually beat it. From that point on I viewed Drake’s treatment as a mission, and I was determined to win. It was the war on cancer, and I did everything I could to remain strong for our family and set a positive tone.

What can friends and family do to support families battling Pediatric Cancer: It's most important for family and friends to stay positive and optimistic and to follow the lead of the parents on how much they want to share. It's also not enough to say, "Just let us know what you need." Instead, make a list of items/duties you will provide, get permission from the family and then fill the slots with volunteers. Think of everything from organizing who will cut their lawn to providing an easy way for their laundry to be cleaned while they are at the hospital. St. Richard's, our son's school and my place of employment, purchased a deep freezer for our family. Friends organized a "stock the freezer" time, and we came home from the hospital to probably 25 frozen meals with easy to follow directions. Think of the whole family when offering support and don't underestimate providing CHEER and/or positive distractions. One day we came home from the hospital with a gigantic inflatable Santa in our front yard; we still don't know who did this but our son talks about it today. Organize a sock it to cancer day and have all of the patients' family and friends where crazy socks and take pictures and post it on social media with a hash tag so they can view them all. The options are endless!

Additional thoughts or words of wisdom to share with our audience of working mothers in Indianapolis: When our son was repeatedly having pain in his legs due to treatment, I asked him how he felt one morning. He looked at me and said, “a little good.” He was in fact in pain, but this response was how he chose to view the world. There are children like Drake who have endured more in their short time on this planet than most adults have in a lifetime. When we think parenting or any part of life is hard, I try to remember that it’s still “a little good.” The world would be a better place if more people adopted this mantra.


Name: Stayce Woodburn

Where do you live: Brownsburg, IN

Role: I am wife to my amazing husband, Jay, and the mother of my 2 amazing children – Ava, who is almost 10, and Grayson, who is 7. I am a full time Pediatric Stem Cell Transplant Nurse Practitioner and Director of Advanced Practice Provider at Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University Health. I have been a health care provider fighting pediatric cancer for the past 20 years here at Riley.

The Woodburn Family. Photo courtesy of Bram Photography.

The Woodburn Family. Photo courtesy of Bram Photography.

How has Pediatric Cancer affected your life: Pediatric Cancer has affected my life both personally and professionally. As a health care provider, telling a family their child has cancer are words no family should ever hear. I have learned so much from both my patients and their families - who are fighting different variations of pediatric cancer. The biggest lesson I have learned is: children are resilient. They teach all of us life's most valuable lessons of what truly is important in life. They love, they trust and they hope that they too will one day be cancer free. Their families learn a new normal. They now prioritize their lives around fighting for their child. Many of their days are spent in the hospital or outpatient clinic watching their child receive chemotherapy, blood transfusions, painful procedures, etc. They learn to give necessary medical care at home. They, together with their child, show a tremendous amount of strength and hope, most certainly something we can all learn from.

What message do you want to share to parents with a child facing Pediatric Cancer: You are not alone in this fight! Rely on you friends, community and faith to see you through the ups and down of this cancer journey. Your health care providers are on your side and fighting alongside you and your child. Not only are we here for the medical care component, but we are here to treat the physical, mental and spiritual being of both the patient and their family.

What can friends and family do to support families battling Pediatric Cancer: Awareness is key to pediatric cancer. Pediatric cancer remains the leading cause of death by disease for children under the age of 15. Advocate for more pediatric cancer funding at the state and federal levels. Support local research efforts and foundations who are raising funds for pediatric cancer research and funds for patients/families. Rally around those who have a child diagnosed with cancer. The smallest act of kindness means the world to families who, at times, are living moment by moment.

Additional thoughts or words of wisdom to share with our audience of working mothers in Indianapolis: Remember what truly is important in life. Balance is key to success. Take time for self-care and healing. Ask for help. I have learned I can’t do it all on my own. Find your drive and passion in life.

Stayce Woodburn. Photo courtesy of Riley Children’s Health.

Stayce Woodburn. Photo courtesy of Riley Children’s Health.

Ready to make an impact? These local organizations are a great place to donate or volunteer:

Little Red Door

Ronald McDonald House

A Kid Again

Indiana Children’s Wish Fund

Sheets from Home

Tatum Parker Project

Caroline Symmes Organization

For more ideas on how to raise awareness for Pediatric Cancer see our Pinterest Board here.

* Statistics from the American Childhood Cancer Organization 2019