Childhood Cancer Survivor Becomes a Nurse to Help Kids Like Her - Cincinnati Children's Blog

Childhood Cancer Survivor Becomes a Nurse to Help Kids Like Her

Maria survived Wilms tumor when she was a toddler and now she's a pediatric nurse.

Maria Seta Kirkland says she has a soft spot for bald heads and chubby cheeks. She is a childhood cancer survivor and once had a bald head and chubby cheeks herself. She always wants to tell people she loves them. She says that’s because she knows how precious life is and how quickly it can be taken away.

Maria is a nurse at Cincinnati Children’s, the same hospital where she was treated nearly 30 years ago.

Maria says her care team here has seen her through all of her milestones. And they will be celebrating with her this weekend at the annual Cancer Survivor picnic. The past year has been big for Maria, she will be able to show off pictures from her recent wedding and ultrasound images of the little girl she and her husband are expecting in January.

Maria says without the right treatment, things might not have turned out so well.

When she was 18 months old, Maria was diagnosed with Wilms tumor, a type of kidney cancer. Her caregivers at Cincinnati Children’s helped her not only survive but anticipate health problems she might face growing up.

Now, Maria has become a nurse at Cincinnati Children’s where she says she’s come “full circle.” She has cared for children in the Cancer and Blood Diseases Institute and now works in the emergency department at our Liberty Campus.

We sat down with Maria and her mom just before her wedding, and this is what they shared with us:

Maria still receives care here, through the 5+ Cancer Survivor Center, which treats 1,800 childhood cancer survivors ranging in age from 5 to 64 years old.

She undergoes a full work-up of tests every year, and experts at Cincinnati Children’s have helped her manage a heart condition and other effects of childhood cancer. Now that she is expecting a child herself, her doctors are keeping an eye on her pregnancy and continue to offer a coordinated, team approach to her care.

September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. It’s a great time to consider supporting pediatric cancer research and to recognize people who are fighting or have survived childhood cancer!

If you have questions, or would like to request an appointment, please contact our Cancer and Blood Institute Center.

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Tanya Leach

About the Author: Tanya Leach

Tanya Bricking Leach is a writer and video producer at Cincinnati Children's and a former newspaper reporter who has covered crime for The Cincinnati Enquirer, sports for USA Today, island life for The Honolulu Advertiser, food for The Associated Press and stories about storms and surfers for the New York Times. Tanya is the author of the military-themed travel guide "Hawaii for Heroes." She is married to a military veteran and is the mother of two young boys. When she's not wired in at work, she enjoys unplugging with her family on their sailboat.

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  1. Kelly Marsh September 06, 14:36
    Aww, I love hearing stories like this! My daughter underwent a bone marrow transplant at Cincinnati Children's and is almost 4 years post transplant. I know that she too wants to work in the medical field when she grows up and wants to give the care that she received as a little girl. CCHMC doctors and nurses are second to none!
  2. Bre April 12, 22:53
    This is awesome to hear! I am a fellow childhood cancer survivor turned RN! I had acute lymphoblastic leukemia at age 5. I am now 30 and working as an oncology nurse navigator. I have POTS disorder as a result of chemotherapy but I continue to push through each day. I only wish I had been given the follow up care over the last 25 years that Cincinnati provides! Way to go on your survivor care!
  3. aeslin January 09, 01:01
    That is so awesome!! I am 26, I had childhood cancer as well ALL leukemia. I am working my way to become a RN! I would love to work for Valley Children, where I got my treatment. The nurses there helped me get through it all and were the best!