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Reflecting on my cancer diagnosis and treatment at Mary Bridge Children’s

During her senior year of high school, Bergen Palmer was diagnosed with cancer and chose to receive her care at Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital.

By Bergen Palmer

During her senior year of high school, Bergen Palmer was diagnosed with cancer and chose to receive her care at Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital. As a Mary Bridge Children’s Patient Ambassador, she sees the importance of sharing her experience so that teens in similar situations won’t feel alone or scared during their treatment. This is her story, in her own words. 

On March 4, 2020, my dermatologist at Peninsula Dermatology referred me to the Mary Bridge Children’s Hematology/Oncology Clinic after receiving blood work from my routine acne checkup.

I was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia under the care of Jacob Henderson, MD. Immediately following my appointment at the clinic, I was admitted to the inpatient side of Mary Bridge Children’s where I spent the next six months off and on treatment.

Bergen with olaf

Caption: Bergen with Mary Bridge Children’s Facility Dog Olaf during treatment.

The very first thing I remember about receiving treatment at Mary Bridge Children’s was how compassionate each member of the care team was, from the nurse who checked me in to the wonderful housekeeping team. The healing atmosphere within the hospital allowed me to forget the reason I was admitted to begin with.

The people who cared for me weren't just there to help me with my diagnosis — they also helped me through life and all other aspects that come with an illness. For example, the child life specialists were always just such a positive influence and so happy all the time, which you really need. It was really a good healing environment.

I could write a whole book giving praise to the nurses and doctors at Mary Bridge Children’s. However, one doctor that truly stood out to me was Dr. Henderson. Dr. Henderson helped me heal from my diagnosis by connecting with me through recreational outdoor activities we both enjoy, such as skiing and sailing. He also did a great job explaining my cancer in a way that was age appropriate, but not super science-y.

Advice to other patients

If I could talk to a patient close to my age who is currently receiving treatment at Mary Bridge Children’s, I would tell them that they have the biggest support team of doctors and nurses to care for them not only as a patient, but to cheer for them in life, as well. I would encourage them to get to know their nurses one-on-one and hear about why they decided to become nurses.

At 18 years old, I was one of the oldest patients in the hospital, but I was never bored. They created a space where I could read and catch up on schoolwork. One of my favorite things about my room was the whiteboards — I did a lot of math on those whiteboards.

Post cancer treatment

Ten months out from my time as a patient, I have many saved letters of well-wishes written by a handful of nurses I had the pleasure to be treated by. One thing I would like other kids to know about my time in the hospital is that every staff member is committed to creating an environment that is made to help you heal.

Today, Bergen is a about to begin her sophomore year at Grand Canyon University with the hopes of a career in investment banking as a hedge fund manager. While she is away, she gets her annual check-ups at Phoenix’s Children’s Hospital.

If you’d like to support cancer care for children and young adults like Bergen, you can make a gift to Mary Bridge Children’s Foundation today.