‘The Shining Light for All Patients With Cancer’


A retired special education teacher reflects on a pediatric oncology nurse practitioner who helped her teach children with neurocognitive issues impacted by cancer and its treatments.

My essay is about Yael Derman, M.S.N., RN, CPNP-AC CPHON, a pediatric oncology nurse practitioner who works at Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago, Illinois. I am a retired special education teacher/tutor. My practice included homeschooling/tutoring/remediation for students with learning disabilities. It is from the perspective as a consultant and friend that I am nominating Yael as an extraordinary nurse healer.

Previous to my retirement, I was approached by a colleague to tutor her teenager with cancer. At that time, there was very little information regarding an individualized educational plan for children whose neurocognitive issues were impacted by cancer and its treatments. I only knew of one person who I could contact as a consultant: Yael.

Yael is a two-time cancer survivor. Her first diagnosis was at age four and again at age 10. Twenty years ago, she was told by her nurse practitioner that her cancer has reoccurred and that the prognosis is dismal without a bone marrow transplant. Her 10-year-old response to this devastating news was, “It isn't fair. When I grow up, I'll have to fix this." True to her promise, Yael’s cancer was “fixed.” Every year, Yael undergoes tests to make sure that the cancer has not reoccurred.

Yael’s personal knowledge and experience qualifies as my most credible consultant. She has been a most valued and respected resource because she possesses the essential educational and experiential background academically, clinically and personally. She is an extremely valuable asset to me, her patients, their families and community members.

As a pediatric oncology nurse practitioner, she assists with treatment, protocols and, of ultimate importance, those who depend on her expertise and compassion. Her knowledge regarding caring for children with cancer and blood disorders, side effects and long-term neurocognitive issues is invaluable. Her recommendations to parents regarding how her young patients can remain connected to the school and teaching environment is extremely reassuring.

Yael was chosen to create a video on YouTube during Nurses Week 2020 in honor of all nurses. The purpose of this video explains why one becomes a nurse. An integral part of the video discloses her personal story and why she has supported pediatric cancer her entire life. In the video, she detailed the day she found out that her cancer had returned. “On that day, nursing chose me,” Yael said.

Glowing testaments from her patients and their families show how she caringly, lovingly and compassionately helps them, all of which are well-deserved accolades. She is described as their cheerleader, mentor and a shoulder to lean on. Another important factor is that she instills hope.

Yael is the shining light for all patients with cancer she cares for and empowers. Her ultimate value is the work she does as a healer and advocate for pediatric cancer. She is an inspiration to me, her patients and all fortunate enough to have her in their lives.

Editor’s Note: This is an essay submitted by Anne Wold for the 2021 Extraordinary Healer Award. Click here to read more about CURE®’s Extraordinary Healer® Award for Oncology Nursing event on April 30, 2021.

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