Day in the Life: Robin and Liz

Robin and LizRobin and Liz are social workers at the St. Christopher’s Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia, PA. They were lead to social work through different paths, but neither can imagine doing anything else. They believe that every patient is a unique chance to make a difference. CureSearch recently caught up with Robin and Liz to learn more about their role, and what led them to this profession.



Q: What led you to becoming Social Workers?

Robin: Both of my parents worked in the health care industry which gave me the opportunity to volunteer in a hospital. From a very young age, I would read case studies and became very interested in how families interacted and coped. I also was able to shadow social workers, and decided after that to become one.

Liz: In 1989 I had a daughter who was born a conjoined twin. A social worker helped me to deal with the stress of the diagnosis. I was so touched by her care that I knew this was what I wanted to do.

Q:What is an average day like for you at the hospital?

Robin and Liz: We work as a team to provide support and direction to patients and their families. A big part of our job is to change the way that a patient copes with a situation. We connect families with resources, whether it is organizations outside of the hospital, or information on treatment. Most of the day is spent talking to patients, trying to understand how they are feeling and finding ways  to help.

Q:What is your least favorite part of being a social worker?

Robin: Poor communication.

Liz: I agree with Robin. Poor communication can derail a treatment plan. We are constantly working to provide the best possible care, but if communication isn’t there, that is hard to do.

Robin: We believe that this job requires a team effort. Since we all function as a team, we all need to talk to each other to do our job.

Q:What is your favorite part of being a social worker?

Liz: When people trust you. That is huge. We work to provide a safe and trusting atmosphere, when that happens, people confide in you and you can really help them. We help them realize their fears and troubles, and help them overcome those. I love hearing families open up about the issues that they are facing.

Meet the Children: Carmello

Carmello 1

When Jasmin’s son, Carmello was two he started having breathing spells, where he held his breath for long stretches of time. Concerned, Jasmin took him to the doctor, who explained that they were just temper tantrums, and that he would eventually grow out of them.

Months later, the breathing spells returned. Jasmin took notes during each episode and shared them with Carmello’s doctor, who directed to them to a neurologist. After several tests, they were sent home without answers. Carmello continued to have breathing spells, became lethargic, bruised easily, lost weight and spiked high fevers. His doctors insisted it was a viral infection, but Jasmin knew something more was going on. Finally, they ran a blood test and found that Carmello had leukemia.

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Childhood Cancer’s Health Woes Persist for Years


June 11, 2013 (Wall Street Journal) — As advances in treating pediatric cancers allow more and more patients to live into adulthood, doctors are increasingly concerned about the long-term health effects of the very treatments that saved them as children.

Researchers found, in a large study of adult survivors of childhood cancer, that more than 95% suffered from a chronic health condition by the age of 45, including pulmonary, hearing, cardiac and other problems related either to their cancer or the cancer treatment.

Many serious health conditions went undiagnosed until the participants joined the study, the researchers found, raising questions about whether survivors are receiving proper follow-up care given their higher risks for certain health problems later in life.

“Doctors may not be thinking about a heart-valve disorder in someone in his 30s, but if you had radiation to your chest at 10, this is something to think about,” said Melissa M. Hudson, principal investigator and one of the authors of the study, which was published in JAMA.

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Omaha CureSearch Walker Honors Son

Marcy Grimm

Marcy Grimm, Omaha CureSearch Walk committee member, has been involved since the beginning and has watched the Walk grow. She and her fellow committee members, proud to see how the Walk has grown, are dedicated to honoring and remembering all those affected by children’s cancer.

On Saturday, June 1 thousands of walkers gathered together to celebrate the 8th Omaha CureSearch Walk. Fifty six teams worked together to raise more than $175,000 which tipped the event over the $1 million mark in its history. The funds these teams raised will support CureSearch’s mission to fund innovative and targeted research.

Marcy’s connection to children’s cancer is through her son, Ethan, who was diagnosed with a brain tumor in 1999 when heOmaha2013 was five. Ethan went through multiple rounds of chemoth erapy, a stem cell transplant, and various other treatments, but relapsed within a year of diagnosis. In 2005, Ethan was also diagnosed with leukemia, a side effect of the treatment he received for his brain tumor. Ethan amazed doctors when he survived the leukemia. Unfortunately, the brain tumor began to grow again a year later, and took his life in 2008. Because of her son’s experience, and that he did not survive; Marcy is driven to help find a cure for the 36 children diagnosed with cancer every day.

This year, as Marcy stood at the Walk, she stood among more than 1,000 people and sponsors, all committed to finding a cure for all children diagnosed with cancer. Sponsor No Frills Supermarket returned to support the 2013 Walk after raising $10,000 in 2012. This year, they expanded their involvement through their pin-up campaign, aimed at raising awareness and funds in the Omaha community. Even though the weather threatened to put a damper of the day’s events, it didn’t. Walkers enjoyed entertainment from clowns, magicians, PGA golf swing challenges, a visit from a fire truck, food and more.

To find a local CureSearch walk near you, visit and show your dedication to the fight against children’s cancer.

Day in the Life: Bethany Smyth

Bethany Smyth 4

Bethany Smyth is a pediatric oncology nurse at Brooke Army Medical Center who is dedicated to her patients and their families. Bethany has been a nurse for 8 years, and can’t imagine doing anything else. She is a long time CureSearch supporter, completing the 2012 Texas Hill Country Ultimate Hike and participating in the San Antonio CureSearch Walk. CureSearch recently caught up with Bethany to ask her about life as a nurse.


Q: What motivated you to become a nurse?

A: My mom was a nurse, and growing up, I always knew that nursing was what I wanted to do. Eight years ago, I startedBethany Smyth 1 working on the adult transplant floor, but I always wanted to work in pediatrics. When I transferred hospitals, I was able to work with children in intermediate care, but was looking for something different. I decided to take a position at Brooke Army Medical Center, where I was given the opportunity to work in pediatric oncology. Once I started working there, I knew that working with these patients was what I was meant to do.

Q: What is your favorite part about being a nurse?

A: I can’t imagine doing anything else. I work in a small unit, so I get to know all of our patients. I love getting to take care of the entire family, not just the child going through treatment. When you’re in pediatric nursing, you’re not just focused on the child; you get to deal with so many different aspects of the treatment.

The children that we treat at our hospital are so resilient; they always have a smile on their face, no matter what they are going through. I love that I get to be a kid with the patients; I will do anything to make them smile. I also love how far treatment has come since I became a nurse.  It’s also so exciting when I have the opportunity to celebrate major milestones with patients, and see them move on to the next part of their lives.

Q: What is an average day like?

A: Typically there are two to three patients who are receiving chemotherapy at our hospital. We get a large variety of cancer types, and work together as a team to provide the best possible care. Not all of the children that we care for are oncology patients, so we offer many different types of care throughout the day. Each day is different than the last, which makes this job challenging and exciting.

Researcher Seeks Answers to DIPG

Study could lead to new treatment options


Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG) is one of the most devastating childhood cancers, with mean survival times of a little more than a year. DIPG is a type of central nervous system cancer that is located in the pons section of the brain. The pons controls breathing and swallowing, as well as movement in the face and head, and arms and legs. DIPG tumors cannot be removed because they lack an identifiable border, and they take over a location in the brain necessary for survival.

DIPG is a very rare childhood cancer and primarily affects children between 3-10 years old. The cancer is treated aggressively with radiation but in the last 30 years, no other treatments have been shown to extend a child’s life beyond 1 to 2 years. Diagnosed by unique characteristics that appear on MRI, until recently there was very little DIPG tissue available for researchers to study. Thanks to new autopsy processes, in recent years researchers have begun to study DIPG tissue and in doing so have found that a specific gene mutation is present in about 70% of DIPG tumors.

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Top Ten 2012 CureSearch Walk Teams

The CureSearch Walk helps fund innovative and targeted research as well as patients enrolled in  clinical trials conducted at hospitals across the country. This wouldn’t be possible without the help of the dedicated teams who tirelessly raised funds. Thank you to all the teams who participated in CureSearch Walks in 2012!

1. LOL 4 Lindsey- Chicago CureSearch Walk- $36,080

2. Cure It- Chicago CureSearch Walk- $30,230

3. Molly’s Miracle Makers- Omaha CureSearch Walk- $28,645

4. No fear. Just faith- Orlando CureSearch Walk- $27,127

5. Tournament for Lifers- Boston CureSearch Walk- $25,763

6. Team Lexe Kicks- Salt Lake City CureSearch Walk- $23,672

7. Paige’s Pals- Chicago CureSearch Walk- $22,972

8. Team Campbell- North Jersey CureSearch Walk- $22,874

9. G.I. Jake- Omaha CureSearch Walk- $22,553

10. Team Jeanne- Avery “J-Walkers for a Cure” – New Orleans CureSearch Walk- $21,192