September 27, 2019

What one young cancer survivor wants you to know

by Gigi Pasley

After 4 bouts with childhood cancer, this young adult has learned valuable lessons she wants to share.


Your child, best friend, family member or a neighbor was just diagnosed with childhood cancer or is a cancer survivor. It’s always going to be hard to be around a diagnosis like this, but it will always be harder for the cancer patient. I know: I am a four-time cancer survivor.

September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. To better highlight it, I thought about my own experience and what I wished others knew about how to interact with me.

Here goes:

Don’t treat me like a china doll.

I know you’re only trying to protect me but I promise I’m not so easily broken. I will tell you when I need “delicate” treatment.


Do remember that I am still human.

The things I’ve endured may seem “out of this world” but I am not. I enjoy the same things other kids my age do and all of our blood runs red.


Don’t turn home life into a hospital.

I know I have to take care of myself and take my medications and treatments, but that doesn’t mean home should be just like the hospital. Be my parent not a doctor. Be my friend, not a nurse. I get that it’s scary, but I can be safe and healthy without the hospital.


Do ask me how I am.

It’s OK to ask me about my medical life and how I am coping with everything. Talking is a great release! What I might share could be a lot to handle and process, but I tell you these things because I love and trust you.


Don’t forget to laugh.

I want you to be happy. If I’m feeling bad it could help seeing you enjoy yourself. Laughing is contagious.


Do include me in your activities.

I still like to have fun. Don’t exclude me because you think I’m too weak or sick. I’ll let you know if I am not up to it. I know we might have to do things differently, but I still need to get out and experience the world.


Don’t speak for me.

I know it seems you are helping when you answer questions for me but you’re doing more harm than good. I need to be able to verbalize my thoughts and thinking process to my peers, doctors and people in general.


Do live your life.

I understand you might want to drop everything to help me, but then I get the short end of the stick because you have no time to unwind and do the things that make you happy. I don’t want you on edge when you are trying to help me. Your life is just as important as mine.


Don’t live my life.

Doing my chores or homework won’t help anyone ever. (I can’t believe I am admitting this!) I might be struggling, but having someone else trying to do my work or scheduling my life won’t help me learn organizational skills or how to prioritize all things to help me become a young adult.



Be aware of childhood cancer.


This post was written by Gigi Pasley, 21, a four-time cancer survivor (AML three times, two bone marrow transplants and osteosarcoma) who lives with the late effects of former treatment. She is the youngest of three children and is enrolled in Columbia State University this fall. She enjoys writing. She wrote the song below for the “Everybody Has a Story” CD project, which celebrates the creativity of children and youth at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt and shows how music helps them share their stories and emotions.


“What is Normal”

by Gigi Pasley and Jenny Plume

Amy Grant – Vocals
Brett Vargason – Drums
Todd Shay – Electric Guitar
Tom Hemby – Acoustic Guitar
Tom Michael – Bass
Michael Omartian – Keyboards
Produced by Michael Omartian
Recorded at The Blue Room by Terry Christian assisted by Kevin Dailey
Mixed at Sound House by Terry Christian

Amy Grant appears courtesy of Amy Grant Productions. Under Exclusive License to Sparrow Records®


Teens, Living with Cancer

To learn more about the Hematology and Oncology programs and services at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt, click here or call 615-936-1762.

5 thoughts on “What one young cancer survivor wants you to know”

  1. Rhonda says:

    Thank you Ms Go go for sharing this information. This has definitely opened my eyes on how to treat and respect our young children who are facing similar challenges. I love the song. Please continue all of the good works you are doing as you help to educate us all.

  2. Sarah Beth Gray says:

    Proud of you GiGi! Thanks for sharing your thoughts- Sarah Beth Gray, Child Life Specialist

  3. Betty McIntyre says:

    GIGI I let Mrs G at Centennial. She was so surprised and happy for you. I am Betty McIntyre from CHS. Go girl! I am so proud of you.

  4. Shirley Mack says:

    Thank you so much Gigi for your inspirational song and story! It jumpstarted my day! Thanks for walking out your purpose; go and pursue your dream as you enjoy college life!

    Shirley Mack

  5. Pam James says:

    Ms. GiGi….I absolutely love this. Dr. Najjar sent this to me. I didn’t have a clue you wrote music much less had Amy Grant to sing this. With every day that passes you amaze me in all that you do. Continue writing, listening to music and above all….CONTINUE WITH ALL YOUR DREAMS. THE SKY HAS NO LIMITS.
    Love you,
    Ms. Pam in YOUR clinic

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