The old expression, you can’t understand a person until you walk a mile in their shoes, isn’t just a saying for Cody Shearrow. It’s a way of life. As a registered nurse in the Showers Family Center for Childhood Cancer and Blood Disorders, he not only provides care to patients, he also understands exactly what it’s like to be a patient there, too.
Cody was just 5-and-a-half when he was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia and is now 20 years in remission. What he remembers most about his time as a patient at Akron Children’s isn’t the medicine; rather it’s the people who cared for him.
“I remember Dr. Hord and all the wonderful nurses, especially Denise and Amy, who treated me,” said Cody. “I would always joke around with the nurses … one nurse used to joke with me about squeezing a banana through my missing front tooth! They all made a huge impact on my treatment and overall perception of Akron Children’s. They always took the anxiety away and made Akron Children’s feel like my second home.”
And, for three-and-a-half years, Akron Children’s was Cody’s second home. Like so many of the patients who come to Akron Children’s for cancer care, the hospital becomes a place where kids celebrate holidays, birthdays, good days and bad with an extended family who also helps them get through the extraordinary journey of battling cancer.
Being a childhood cancer survivor made Cody want to make a positive impact on others so he turned to health care as a career choice.
“I decided I wanted to be a nurse about three quarters of the way through my first degree,” said Cody. “Working with kids has always been a calling. I think it takes a special group of people to be able to take the leap into pediatrics – especially hematology.”
A recent nursing graduate, Cody was quick to accept what he considers to be his dream job of working along side some of the very people who cared for him.
“Working in the cancer unit drives my passion and makes me feel proud and accomplished to be able to relate to my patients in a very unique way,” said Cody. “If the situation permits, I tell my patients that I have been in their shoes before. Often times, I think it helps the kids trust me a little more, as well as the parents.”
About 16,000 children and adolescents in the United States will be diagnosed with cancer this year. Cancer is the leading cause of death by disease in children and adolescents.
Childhood Cancer Awareness Month is recognized every September by childhood cancer organizations around the world to raise awareness for the disease and create a community of hope for families impacted by the disease.
In support, Akron Children’s stays at the forefront of medical care for its patients, offering the latest advancements in treatment options, including immunotherapy and clinical trials. While treatment options have come a long way to help improve long-term survival rates – now between and 85 and 90 percent – it’s also the human factor that can leave an impression on a patient’s life.
“At the end of the day, I enjoy leaving work and knowing that I made a positive impact on my patients’ lives – even if it’s just a tiny bit,” said Cody. “Many of my patients are little so I know they may not fully understand what is going on, but I know – literally – that they will one day. I think it’s important that they know this experience will guide them for the rest of their lives. In a sense, the struggle now is lighting the fire for their passion later on, as it did for me.”
Of course Cody can’t physically fit into his patients’ shoes, but he definitely knows the path they’re on and can offer perspective that few others can.
“I hope my story offers a sense of hope,” said Cody. “Every case is different, as is every patient, but it’s okay for parents – and kids – to hang onto hope and trust fully in all the health care workers at Akron Children’s.”
There are 120 staff members – from teachers and therapists to psychologists, nurses and doctors – whose primary focus is caring for kids in the Showers Family Center for Childhood Cancer and Blood Disorders. Learn more about the care we provide our patients or learn about opportunities to join us as a team member.