Introducing… a pediatric radiation therapist

Introducing… a pediatric radiation therapist

Melanie Carrigan is a pediatric radiation therapist based at Hamilton Health Sciences’ (HHS) Juravinski Cancer Centre (JCC). She has been part of the pediatric team at JCC since its inception in 2010.

What do you do?

My job is to plan all aspects of the radiation and treatment process for children and young patients. I guide our families through the initial stages all the way through treatment and assessment, which includes providing education. Most of our patients come through HHS’ McMaster Children’s Hospital, so my role is also to liaise with the various departments at that site.

What do you love most about your role?

What I love the most is how much I learn every day. My drive to be a life-long learner allows me to provide high quality and compassionate services to patients and their families. I am quite proud of developing a pediatric patient handbook specific to our unique shared care setting. I also helped produce a video that showcases a child’s journey through the pediatric radiation process.

Each child brings a new challenge, which helps me to improve for the next child. I thrive on employing new strategies and using appropriate language geared to children and their families.

“It is a privilege to offer patients knowledge, experience, hope or someone to just simply play with.”

What keeps you motivated?

Working with children, particularly those who are ill or terminal, can be difficult. But, it is humbling and rewarding on a personal level.

I am absolutely driven to assist our families during what is likely to be the most difficult circumstance they will face in their lives. If I can help in any way to streamline the process, I am determined to make it happen.

It is a privilege to offer patients knowledge, experience, hope, a distraction, someone to coordinate appointments between multiple centres, listen to them, offer a shoulder to cry on or just simply play and have fun with them. These kids are so brave and strong, I am in awe of how they cope every day.

What is the biggest challenge in your role?

For someone who cares for patients with cancer, particularly children, managing the emotional effects in a healthy way is a challenge. Ultimately, if they can do this, so can I.

I saw a quote from Rawsi Williams recently about nursing, which resonated with me: “To do what nobody else will do, in a way that nobody else can do, in spite of all we go through.” That’s what it feels like to work in a field focused on childhood cancer.

Some days are unbelievably hard, but some of my best days are here with these amazing, resilient kids.