Pediatric Oncology Nurse Turned VEO Believes Fun Is the Answer to Cancer

by Steven Merino, St. Baldrick's Foundation
April 17, 2015

Lynne Stiefler has been part of the childhood cancer world for over 30 years, and she’s not going anywhere anytime soon. Read on to learn how she’s giving children with cancer something to smile about.

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Lynne sits with Honored Kid Amanda at a St. Baldrick’s event.

Lynne Stiefler has been around the cancer carousel for longer than most people could stomach.

She’s a retired pediatric oncology nurse with 29 years of experience under her belt. Her husband has been through two bouts with cancer. She has been involved with St. Baldrick’s for nine years, has been a shavee℠ for seven, and has been organizing the Mickey Finn’s event in Victor, New York, for four.

She doesn’t think it’s enough.

“More awareness is needed, and funding for research,” she said. “Some people don’t know that there is more than one type of childhood cancer. They just don’t understand that there won’t be a drug that will cure it all. There have only been three drugs made in the last 20 years that have targeted children’s cancers — there needs to be more.”

Read about the most recent childhood cancer drug approved by the FDA >

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Before her shave this year, Lynne dyed her hair blue and purple, honoring the favorite colors of two beloved children with cancer.

Even with these realities hanging heavy on her mind, Lynne exudes positivity. “You’ve got to keep a sense of humor,” she said.

It wouldn’t take long for you to notice this creed in action. For the last five years she has dyed her hair a different color before her dive into the shave. This year she even took it a step further by adding a second color to her hair.

The choices this year — blue and purple — were more than just a gag to get people’s attention about her event at Mickey Finn’s. Last year her cousin’s son, Ben, was diagnosed with a brain tumor, and another girl she knew, Amanda, suffered the same diagnosis. Their favorite colors? Blue and purple respectively.

“You never know when childhood cancer will touch your life and your family. I wanted to let that be known in a public way, so I dyed my hair in their honor,” Lynne said.

Children with cancer and their families are what make the events so meaningful, and they’re the reason Lynne keeps doing what she’s doing. “Honoring the children that have endured so much is very special and gives the motivation to organize the event each year,” she said.

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Lynne addresses the crowd at her event last year.

As busy as she is organizing the event, Lynne still goes the extra mile and shaves every year. Her philosophy? “I will not ask others to do something that I am not willing to do myself.”

In 2008 she had the privilege of being shaved by one of her former patients, bringing full circle all the work she’s done. “It really was a great feeling,” she said.

Lynne has witnessed the brutalities of cancer from every angle. Still, developing close relationships with children and families affected by childhood cancer makes it all worthwhile. “I have had the chance to become involved with many other families that have had children with cancer and followed many of the journeys that they face as a result,” she said. “These children matter and are inspirational to others when you recognize the strength that they show.”

Lynne will be shaving her head on her 6oth birthday this year! Show her some birthday love — donate on her shavee page.

You don’t have to be a medical professional to make a difference in the lives of children with cancer. Get involved now (hair dye optional).

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