The following speech was a highlight of the March 2022 St. Baldrick’s event at St. Agnes Parish Center in Rockville Centre, NY. With thanks to Greta, we’re sharing it so others can hear her experience and how she feels about St. Baldrick’s, as a childhood cancer survivor.
“Hi! My name is Greta Ohanian and I am currently 6 years out of treatment for Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Sometimes I struggle with what to say at events like this because there are so many aspects of cancer that I could touch on as a survivor. But one of the worst parts is how frightening it is to go into a cancer diagnosis knowing how limited the treatment is.
Greta during treatment.
Being diagnosed with cancer at such a young age is incredibly scary and terrifying and we need more options. I am standing here talking to you years after my diagnosis, but there are so many people who were in my same shoes who can’t be here today because the research just wasn’t there for them. The treatment available just wasn’t enough. My own chemotherapy regimen almost didn’t work for me. And sometimes I find myself wondering if there ever was a plan B. What would we have done then, and where would I be now?
The kids we are representing today were all at some point in their life told that yes, they had cancer. Even though they were too young. Even though they were just kids. They had cancer, and they needed intense treatment. They were told that they would have to miss school, that they couldn’t see their friends because their immune system just couldn’t handle it. They were told that joining the lacrosse team would have to be put off until next spring when they would hopefully be all better. They stopped showing up to soccer games on the weekends, and their desk at school became empty.
And so many of them will never know what it’s like to feel the thrill of getting their first college acceptance letter, the excitement of going to prom, or the incredibly proud feeling of accomplishment that comes with graduating high school. They will never know these things because they had cancer, and the research wasn’t there.
Greta during one of her first chemotherapy treatments.
By donating to St. Baldrick’s, you are funding research ideas that help make sure that when a child is diagnosed with cancer, they always have options. Donating a little bit may not seem like a lot, but all these donations pulled together can fund a research idea, which could turn into a study, which could turn into a clinical trial. And this clinical trial could give a kid with cancer an enormous amount of hope. A clinical trial could give them another shot at achieving those milestones like graduating high school. By donating to St. Baldrick’s, you are investing in a child’s life and their future, as well as providing hope to patients, to their families, and to survivors like me.
I don’t think I’ll ever forget my very first St. Baldrick’s event because of just how much all the support meant to me.
Greta with her dad and brothers at 2016 St. Baldrick’s event.
I had finished treatment the month prior and was very much still feeling all of the chemotherapy side effects. I remember how I hardly made it through the event because I was so exhausted. But I also remember how cool it was to see all of these people coming together to fight the disease that had taken over my life that year, and I remember how for the first time ever, I didn’t stand out with my bald head, I blended in.
I remember how being surrounded by people who had shaved their head that day made me feel more comfortable in my own skin than I had been in months. The impact that day made on me as a 17-year-old just coming out of cancer treatment is one I will never forget, and is something I will always be grateful for.
Greta shaving her dad’s head at 2016 St. Baldrick’s event.
So keep coming to St. Baldrick’s, enter the raffles, buy a t-shirt for yourself, and one for a friend. Listen to those who are speaking and don’t forget what they say. Be inspired by those who are braving the shave, or better yet sign up to shave your head yourself. Because if I can pull off a bald head, so can you! And don’t ever forget the impact you made just by showing up today.”
Greta during the summer of 2022.
Greta’s words are a gift. Why not consider your own gift to help kids like her? Consider signing up for a monthly donation to St. Baldrick’s, and you could help give kids like Greta hope.
Donate now and help support research into better treatments for kids with cancer
Read more on the St. Baldrick’s blog:
A childhood cancer survivor himself, Gregory J. Aune, MD, PhD, shares his personal experience and thoughts during National Cancer Survivor Month.
(Originally posted on Medium on May 19th, Dr. Aune graciously agreed to share this with St. Baldrick’s.)Dr. Aune was a St. Baldrick’s Scholar 2014 – 2019, serves as a scientific reviewer and is a member of the Advocacy Committee for the St. Baldrick’s Foundation. He is the Greehey Distinguished University Chair for Cancer Survivorship in Children at Greehey Children’s Cancer Research Institute in San Antonio, Texas.
On Mother’s Day, we celebrate all moms, each special in her own way. Mothers of kids who have fought childhood cancer have traveled a journey no one would have chosen. May is also Brain Tumor Awareness Month. We asked Gaylene Meeson to share her story of being mom to a very special brain tumor survivor, Hannah.Gaylene Meeson and her daughter Hannah, survivor of an aggressive brain tumor called anaplastic meduloblastoma.
Photo by [Kenneth Lim, kennethlimphotography.com].