In their shoes: Pediatric cancer survivors grown up and working 'For the Kids'

HERSHEY, Pa. — Cole Horne knows that being diagnosed with Burkett’s Lymphoma at age 6 was a life-changing moment, but his memories are not of the large tumor that had to be removed or the five months of chemotherapy that followed; he remembers the fun.

Yes, the fun.

“When you are in Penn State Children’s Hospital, you don’t even feel like you’re in the hospital. There’s music therapy, pet therapy, bingo,” said Horne, now 20 and cancer-free for 13 years. “Then I began participating in THON when I was 7 until I was 13, and that took my mind off what was going on. Everyone is so happy, and they’re there celebrating you.”

Today this childhood cancer survivor is back at Penn State Health, this time as an employee, drawn back because of the excellent support he and his family received from the staff and Four Diamonds.

From patient to employee

Cole Horne's experience as a patient with Four Diamonds at Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center has led him back to the place where he learned how to treat others.

“I always thought this is where I wanted to work because of everything they’ve done for me,” said Horne, who works in Environmental Health Services. “Even though I’m not directly involved in patient care, helping control the spread of germs and disease and giving patients a good atmosphere to be in is important.”

Similarly, Aubrey Mora, who was diagnosed with fibrosarcoma at 20 months and had her leg amputated, said she recalls feeling like a “celebrity” while being treated at the Children’s Hospital.

“A lot of us kids didn’t even know we were sick. We got so much attention and had so many adults doting on us,” said Mora, who subsequently relapsed and underwent treatment for two years.

When Mora’s parents told her that her best friend from preschool, Carrie Ashby, also had cancer, Mora was excited that Ashby would be going to the same hospital and to THON.

The two little girls—and their families—made their cancer journeys together but, like Horne, they mostly remember Four Diamonds fun and the special attention from the staff.

“It was a large blessing to know Aubrey’s family and to be immersed in this culture of caring and support. If we hadn’t had that network, I don’t think we would have had the positive outlook we had,” said Ashby, who went into remission after two years of chemotherapy treatment for acute lymphocytic leukemia.

Read the full story in this Penn State Medicine article.

Last Updated August 08, 2018