Miracle Monday: Eight-year-old fights cancer with the support of a Child Life Specialist

SPOKANE, Wash. — It’s never easy to see kids fighting cancer, and one local girl has been on this path for a few years now. Fortunately, she’s not fighting alone. She’s had a Child Life Specialist with her since the beginning.

March is Child Life Month so this Miracle Monday is shining a light on Child Life Specialists and the work they do at Sacred Heart Children’s Hospital.

Allison Mock has been battling Rhabdomyosarcoma for a few years. This rare type of cancer forms in the soft tissue. With less than 1,000 cases per year in the U.S., it’s extremely rare — but thanks to the great work of medical professionals at Sacred Heart Children’s Hospital, Allison’s been able to put up a good fight, and she’s got a lot of that left in her.

Allison’s mom, Brittany Smittle says, “When she’s being a sass, those are the best days for us.” Most parents but don’t hope for that, but for Smittle, it’s a sign her little girl is feeling alright. At 8-years-old, (“almost 9!”), Allison has been fighting cancer for almost two years and despite these insurmountable challenges, she’s found some joy-triggers along the way. She tells us that in the waiting room, there’s a big boat she can play in.

Before cancer hit, most kids had a hard time keeping up with Allison. Her mom says, “She was active. She was wild and crazy.” Then almost overnight, everything changed. “She just started getting really tired and lost a lot of weight.” Doctors discovered tumors in her body that was collapsing her lungs. Smittle says, “She even told me at one point that her heart hurt. What 5-year-old tells their mom that their heart hurts?”

She’s been battling cancer for almost two years and Lea Thompson, a Child Life Specialist, has been with her every step of the way. Thompson said,” We help instill coping skills, we provide education on diagnosis, we do procedural support and distraction.

Together, they’ve developed a routine. “We do some deep breathing, and positive reinforcement throughout.” When the going gets tough, “She tries to center herself and takes her big deep breaths and just gets refocused and just does it.” These are the things that inspire Thompson, daily. Smittle recognizes the value of this relationship for her daughter. She said, “It takes quite a few of us to get Allison ready for treatment,” as she laughed. “I don’t know what we would do without them. Honestly.”

Allison, focused on the silver lining in this huge challenge, said, “I like the nurses. They’re really friendly.”

This kind of care wouldn’t be possible if it weren’t for the providers at Sacred Heart Children’s Hospital and the support from the Children’s Miracle Network. Donations to the Children’s Miracle Network go straight to members of our community. If you’d like to be a part of this go here.

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