When 12-year-old Brooke Brown lost her beautiful, long tresses to chemotherapy treatments, the experience took a toll on her self-esteem. Recognizing Brooke’s distress, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital Nurse Practitioner Emily Browne pulled out her secret weapon.
“Ms. Emily showed me a picture of herself when she was a teenager,” Brooke says. “In the photo, she was standing by a Christmas tree, and she was bald. Ms. Emily said, ‘See, this is me. I had cancer, and I got better. Now I’m going to help you get better.’ I really took that to heart.”
Not only did the experience provide the motivation Brooke needed to persevere through treatment fornon-Hodgkin lymphoma, a cancer of the immune system, but it also provided the impetus for a career choice.
“I realized the reason I went through this is so that I could come back as an adult and help other children,” says Brooke, a nursing student who aspires to work at St. Jude. “As a nurse, I’ll be able to say, ‘Yes, you feel bad. I understand that, because I’ve been through it. But you have to get up; you have to be strong; you have to smile; you have to laugh. You can get through this, and you can not only be better physically, but also mentally and spiritually.’”
Brooke is one of many St. Jude patients who have transformed their experiences into the ultimate way to give back: helping others through careers in health care.
“I’m passionate about coming back to work at St. Jude,” Brooke says. “Whenever I’m tired or don’t feel like studying, I just think, ‘Brooke, you have to do this to be able to reach your end goal; to see yourself in St. Jude scrubs, helping these kids.’ That is my motivation, my drive.”
Read more stories about former St. Jude patients in the medical field:
Abridged from Promise, Winter 2014