2015 Nursing graduate Jennifer Toth said she was two and half years old when her parents noticed a lump on her abdomen as they were giving her a bath. Her parents took her to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, where the doctors later diagnosed her with liver cancer.
Toth was treated for hepatoblastoma with six months of chemotherapy, which shrank her originally softball-sized tumor to the size of a golf ball, and then underwent surgery to remove the tumor. Often in the hospital as a child, Toth fondly remembers local nurse practitioner Pat Brophy, who was part of a team of medical practitioners she described as "amazing."
Now diagnosed completely free of cancer, Toth works as a nurse at CHOP, the same hospital that helped save her life as a child.
Brophy, she said, was one of the main reasons Toth wanted to become a nurse.
“Nurse practitioners have a unique role in that they work with a medical team,” Toth said. “[Brophy] was involved in my treatment but also spent a lot of time with patients and families and provided a lot of education."
"She was a big support to my parents in terms of providing knowledge and support and encouragement while I was going through treatment," she added.
Toth said her childhood dream of becoming a nurse was reinforced when she shadowed doctors and nurses at a high school summer program, which made her remember the CHOP medical team that helped save her.
“That was the point when I realized it was an easy decision to go into nursing,” Toth said. “Being a survivor gave me direction for what I wanted to do professionally.”
Toth said she specifically chose to become a nurse because they are able to frequently interact with patients. She said during their 12-hour shifts, nurses spend the majority of their time getting to know patients, administering medication, and educating people in their care.
Toth applied early decision to Penn's School of Nursing after receiving the National Cancer Society’s Beyond the Cure Ambassador four-year scholarship program, which offers $3,500 scholarships for childhood cancer survivors.
While she was an undergraduate at Penn, Toth said she ran into the surgeon who operated on her as a child during one of her clinicals. She also worked in the CHOP oncology unit for her senior capstone project.
After graduating from Penn in 2015, Toth immediately started working at the CHOP surgical unit and stayed for nine months before becoming a clinical nurse in the inpatient oncology unit — the position she holds currently.
Toth is now working to receive her Master’s in Nursing from Penn with the goal of becoming a pediatric oncology nurse practitioner, and she hopes to obtain her degree in August 2019.
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