Archived Stories

 
The greatest challenges we face can serve to guide and prepare us for our dreams. Our friend, pediatric RN Aaron Gfeller, learned just that after conquering cancer at Children's Hospital.
 
In July 2000, the summer before his senior year of high school, Aaron Gfeller learned he had cancer—a rare and complicated form called rhabdomyosarcoma. Even while undergoing surgical procedures and months of difficult chemotherapy through the BI-LO Children's Cancer Center, formerly known as the Pediatric Hematology and Oncology Center of the Children’s Hospital, Aaron was able to keep up with his schoolwork and graduated with his class. In the fall, he began studies at Bob Jones University but withdrew after a month, needing a chance to recover from his illness.

Aaron’s break lasted two years. During that time, he contributed to two programs for kids with cancer and chronic blood disorders offered through Pediatric Hematology and Oncology Center. He volunteered with SCAT (“Showing Courage All Together”), a support group for teens on and off treatment, and also served as a counselor at Camp Courage, a medically supervised summer camp held yearly at Camp Greystone in Tuxedo, N.C.
 
By the spring of 2003, Aaron had finished chemotherapy and received the long-hoped-for news that his CT scans were clear. Something else had become clear to Aaron: He wanted to return to the Children’s Hospital.
 
He re-enrolled at BJU that fall—this time with no doubts—as a nursing major. His own experience being surrounded by caregivers he admired and working with other young people with cancer helped him make his decision. There was another key underlying his decision: The fact that his experience took place at Greenville Hospital System.
 
“Children’s Hospital is amazing,” Aaron said. “There’s great treatment available and there’s also this incredible, uplifting atmosphere, this pervading positive attitude shared by the staff that just doesn’t compare with other places.”
 
Aaron says that’s no small thing, considering research shows that disease-fighting white blood cells increase when patients are surrounded by practitioners who are caring and optimistic.
 
“The doctors and nurses are trained in the newest and best treatments for patients with complex diseases, but they’ve got something you can’t train for, and that’s a genuine love for what they do and where they are,” said Aaron.
 
He’ll never forget one nurse who, during off time, would come play the guitar for him for hours.
 
The kids themselves were another inspiration.
 
When Aaron went to the cancer center for the first time, he was scared and feeling sorry for himself. Then he saw lots of youngsters, even toddlers, bald from chemotherapy but having fun.
 
“You wouldn’t know they had cancer,” Aaron said. “Like the rest of Children’s Hospital, the surroundings and the staff at the Cancer Center had made them feel comfortable and loved.”
 
Those kids, the teens he later met through the support group, and the doctors and nurses he saw regularly helped Aaron adopt a hopeful, positive outlook of his own.
 
Even as he’s been busy studying nursing, he’s stayed connected with that extended family. In the spring, he organized and directed a soccer tournament at college to benefit the SCAT support group.
 
Aaron was told that when he completed his degree in 2007, a job in nursing would be waiting for him at Children’s Hospital.
 
“I understand what kids with cancer are going through,” said Aaron. “I’ve seen firsthand the amazing quality of care that Children’s Hospital provides, and I can’t wait to get back … and to give back.”
 
More than eight years after his diagnosis, X-rays show that Aaron is still cancer-free and is in full remission. He is currently a registered nurse in Pediatric Hematology/Oncology at Children's Hospital.

 

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If you'd like more information on supporting patients and families, contact Philanthropy & Partnership Director of Children's Services Crissy Maynard at (864) 797-7735 or cmaynard@ghs.org.

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