What's Right: Texas Children's helps young survivors transition back to school


by Sherry Williams / KHOU 11 News


Posted on August 31, 2011 at 5:33 PM

Updated Wednesday, Aug 31 at 5:40 PM

HOUSTON – For kids with cancer, one of the happiest days of their lives is when they are well enough to go back to school. But that day can also be stressful.

What Texas Children’s Hospital does to help ease that transition is another example of "What’s Right" about Houston.

Sophia, a 5-year-old cancer survivor, recently returned to kindergarten at Walnut Bend Elementary School.

But she didn’t return alone.

TCH sent Child Life Specialist Breanna Murphy with her, to make sure Sophia’s classmates understood what she was going through.

"She had in her body some cells that were made that don’t have a job, and that was called a tumor or cancer," Murphy told Sophia’s class.

"It was right there on her left eye, attached to the bone," Sophia’s mom, Amy Vogel, told KHOU 11 News.

The hospital conducted the sensitivity training to give the kids a chance to ask any questions they might have.

"We’ve taken the elephant out of the room. Nobody’s wondering what’s under Sophia’s hat. Nobody’s wondering why she looks different. We’ve answered those questions, so we’ve answered their curiosity," Murphy said.

Texas Children’s has been conducting educational sessions on behalf of its young patients for the past 10 years.

Parents can request them.

Sophia’s principal loved the idea, for reasons of her own.

"I’m a Stage-3 breast-cancer survivor," Principal Susan Shenker said. "I showed Sophia a picture of me when I was bald and I had a bandana on my head, and she responded that I looked like a pirate."

But thankfully—like her principal—Sophia is now cancer-free, and her school year is off to a good start.