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An unbelievable night: Happiness and hope abound at the hematology and oncology prom
June 07, 2024
A family smiles and dances at the CHoR hematology and oncology prom

    Patients, families and care teams danced the night away

    Benches and coffee tables gave way to buffet lines and a dance floor on Level 2 of the Children’s Pavilion last Saturday evening. The outpatient surgery and radiology waiting area was beautifully transformed for the hematology and oncology prom, allowing patients, families and friends to trade treatments and procedures for dances and laughs.

    Giving back what pediatric cancer takes away

    Parents dance with their kids at CHoR promCurrent patients and those who’ve completed treatment for cancers and blood disorders at CHoR were invited to the event – the first one since a several-year safety break for COVID. More than 125 people attended, with patients ranging in age from 18 months to 16 years old.

    “Cancer robs these kids and the families that care for them of so much. It changes everything,” said Robyn Dillon, clinical social worker for our hematology and oncology program. “They’re not able to do the things their friends and peers do such as go to school, participate in clubs or sports and, yes, go to their proms. We wanted to give them something that honors them and makes them feel special.” 

    Margaret Wright knows firsthand the impact cancer can have on a family. Her 10-year-old son Jericho is set to finish his 14 months of chemotherapy treatment next month. She and her family were all smiles at prom.

    “He’s been through so much the last couple of years. I just appreciate that they do so many fun things for the kids,” Wright said. “It’s really encouraging for us. We’ve felt super supported this whole way. There has been this community that kind of buffered us and came around us and has been making our kids feel special this whole entire year.”

    A “Night in Hollywood” for kids and families at CHoR

    A CHoR nurse paints a patient's nails at promThe “Night in Hollywood” theme was complete with a red carpet, glam area for hair and nails, food, games and plenty of fun. It all stemmed from an idea Dillon brought back from a professional conference many years ago.

    “There was a breakout presentation with a slideshow showing kids and doctors dancing and getting all dressed up. It was so moving and magical, I wanted to bring it here,” she said. “The idea of how and where marinated for several years. We didn’t know what we were doing at first, but we made it a reality.”

    Until this year, prom was held in the cafeteria of Main Hospital (where our pediatric inpatient units were on the 7th floor) or one of the adjoining buildings so inpatients who were feeling well enough could attend. With the opening of the Children’s Tower, the event moved to the adjacent Children’s Pavilion. Doctors, nurses and other members of the care team dressed up and had a ball too. No matter the personal circumstances, it was a special night for everyone involved.

    “For some of the teenagers it may be the only prom they get to, and for some of the kids the only dance they will ever attend. This makes it so special for the children and their families – and for the doctors and nurses who treat them as well,” added Dillon. “Most of the time when we see these kids, it’s in clinic or the hospital when they’re getting lifesaving treatment that is unpleasant, painful and distressful. It’s good medicine for the doctors and nurses to be able to see the kids they care for in such a fun, bright, happy environment. It’s good for everyone involved – the patients and their brothers and sisters and parents and friends, the doctors and nurses and volunteers and community partners. It’s magical.”  

    The VCU Medical Center Auxiliary has made prom possible the last 10 years. Additional funds for this year’s event were donated by Ace Hardware and several other community organizations.

    CHoR patient admires her nails at oncology promVolunteer and patient dance at CHoR oncology prom

    CHoR patient and mom take a break from dancing at prom Patient and dad dance at CHoR oncology prom

    Read all about our nationally ranked cancer care at CHoR.

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