Glance behind the scenes at CURE and you will find an entire team of staff, board members, parents of cancer patients, and others in the community who are working diligently to ensure we are doing everything we can to meet the needs of families of kids with cancer. CURE’s Patient and Family Services (PFS) committee meets regularly to discuss the needs of families, evaluate our current programs, and brainstorm about new ones that will help ease the burdens faced during and after treatment.
At a recent PFS committee meeting, one of the newest members introduced her motives for participation by saying, “I can’t quit the kids.”
Peggy Kerns is a retired nurse who spent 37 years caring for children with cancer. Originally from Chattanooga, TN, she studied at Samford before coming to Egleston Children’s Hospital in Atlanta, where she worked side-by-side with CURE’s founder, Dr. Abdel Ragab.
“When I started in nursing, children weren’t surviving even leukemias that are very treatable today,” she recalled. “Treatment has changed so much over the years, but what never changes is the children. Even during the toughest days, the kids always find a way to be happy.”
Over the years, Peggy has worked with hundreds of children. She’s seen them grow up to become nurses, doctors, authors, and other types of professionals. She has also absorbed losses with their families – which she describes as the hardest part of her job.
“When you treat a child for months or years, they become part of your family,” Peggy said. “I didn’t have children of my own, but I’ve connected with so many families during a very difficult time. That has been my reward.”
Peggy’s dedication went beyond her job. She has volunteered at CURE events and for many years she has served meals to patients and their families through CURE’s Open Arms program. Her retirement three years ago left a void. So she joined CURE’s PFS committee to make sure families are getting what they need to cope with treatment.
“CURE is a bright light in so many lives during a very dark time, and I’m so glad to be a little part of it,” she said. “When you add cancer to the problems a family already has, it’s easy to become overwhelmed. We’re lucky to have CURE here in Georgia.”
And families are lucky to have dedicated nurses like Peggy. While fighting a Wilms tumor, Mitchell Odendahl was one of her patients. He is now a senior at Clemson University studying mechanical engineering, and his mother, Lisa, works for CURE.
“Peggy was Mitchell’s primary clinic nurse, and she was like a ray of sunshine,” Lisa said. “He was only 18 months old, and she was so good at putting him at ease. She became part of our family – even attending Mitchell’s second birthday party. It’s one of my greatest joys that I get to stay in contact with her through CURE! She’s a special lady.”
Peggy had opportunities to move into management over the years but turned them down because she knew her calling was to be by the bedside.
“Some people go through life without knowing what they are supposed to do,” Peggy said. “I’m fortunate that I found my purpose early.”