Dear Mark and 98.7 Listeners,
As a pediatric oncology social worker, it is my privilege to witness the remarkable resilience and triumphant spirit of our patients. I am honored to share a little about one of them with you. Jamya, my “bestie,” as we call each other, is a unique and ever-inquisitive seven-year-old, who is facing cancer for a second time.
In July of 2022, Jamya and her mother, Brandy, noticed Jamya’s abdomen was distended. When she would not eat and it became clear she was not simply constipated, Brandy took her to the ER at the Children’s Hospital of Savannah. Scans revealed what Brandy describes as “one of the worst things you want to hear about your child”: cancer. Specifically, Wilm’s tumor, a type of kidney cancer. What followed diagnosis was a whirlwind: swift surgery to remove Jamya’s left kidney, three weeks of daily radiation therapy, and six months of chemotherapy. Brandy suffered from feelings of anger and bouts of depression throughout her daughter’s treatment, though the family endured by “taking it one day at a time and with lots of prayer.” Jamya also faced emotional challenges, as port access made her anxious, clinic days were lengthy and draining, and she longed to attend first grade with her classmates. Still, she persevered through her treatment journey with few complications -- a testament of her fortitude. In February of 2022, Jamya’s family and our clinic team joyously celebrated when she rang the bell signifying the end of her treatment. Her family was immensely relieved and believed their worst nightmare to be over. They prepared for a return to normalcy and even traveled to Disneyworld for Jamya’s Make-a-Wish trip.
Sadly, cancer had not released its grip. In September of this year, post-treatment scans revealed Jamya had suffered a cancer recurrence in both lungs. Brandy was staggered to learn this, as Jamya seemed to breeze through her previous treatment; she felt as though her “heart was shattered for a second time.” When Brandy took Jamya on a walk and tearfully told her the news, Jamya, concerned about her mother being upset, responded, “It’s ok, Mommy, I’m strong.” It is that strength that helps Brandy “stay positive and have faith that she will do well” this time, as treatment will be more rigorous. Jamya will require aggressive chemotherapy over the next 10 months, as well as additional radiation therapy.
Despite what she has overcome and what lies ahead, Jamya remains her sassy, silly self. She loves to watch TikTok and YouTube videos, incorporating them into conversation, hilariously confusing and entertaining everyone around her. Jamya is a jolly kid and the life of the party, though she is also sensitive to the emotions of others. She has a tender heart and always checks on family members who are sad, offering hugs for comfort. Jamya is beloved in our clinic, and her infectious smile and charm are a gift to us all. Her colorful artwork has spilled from my office to the nurse’s station. Neither it, nor she, can be contained.
Jamya and I spend a lot of time together coloring and playing her favorite pastime: “Can I ask you a question?”.
These talks are frequently funny and nonsensical:
Jamya: “Can I ask you a question?”
Me: “Of course.”
Jamya: “What is that?” < pointing to a sprinkler head in the celling>
Me: “A sprinkler.”
Jamya: “For what?”
Me, hesitantly, concerned I might make her uneasy about fires: “In case of a fire.”
Jamya: “So, I would get wet?”
Sometimes our talks are more profound:
Jamya: “Can I ask you a question?”
Jamya: “Why do I have to be the one to get cancer?”
My heart hurts at what these kinds of questions reveal about her thoughts, and answers always feel insufficient, though it is clear Jamya is hopeful for the future when she shares she would like to be a “cancer doctor” one day.
Jamya’s greatest wish is for small, fluffy puppy she can snuggle. She also hopes for a gymnastics mat and bar, as she has loved tumbling, flipping, and cartwheeling since she was two. Jamya has three siblings. Her 22-year-old brother, James, would enjoy Xbox or PlayStation gift cards to purchase games; her 19-year-old sister Janashia would love a gift card to her favorite store, Forever 21; and sister Brandashia would like a bike and baby doll. Her mother insisted she wanted nothing for herself but shared she would be grateful for items for the house: bakeware, cookware, and a KitchenAid mixer. The family enjoys shopping at Target, Walmart, Kroger, and Publix. Their favorite restaurants are Cheddar’s and Mellow Mushroom.
Thank you, Mark and 98.7, for the opportunity to share with your listeners about our precious patients and their families. Thank you, listeners, for your generosity and support. We are so grateful.
Erin L. Borchert, LMSW
Pediatric Oncology Social Worker
Dwayne and Cynthia Willett Children’s Hospital of Savannah