Chemo is hard, but it's harder when you're a kid. Here's how one hospital is boosting morale.
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Aflac

Battling cancer can be overwhelming, but it can be even harder for young kids with cancer.

But the children and teens at the Aflac Cancer Center of Children's Healthcare of Atlanta have a not-so-secret trick to get through the toughest moments: It's called guided imagery, and it's a technique used to help calm people in stressful times.

The staff often asks the kids to imagine their "happy places" as a way to give them a morale boost and a pleasant distraction when they get scared during their cancer treatments or don't understand what's happening to them and why.


September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, and the staff at CHOA's Aflac Cancer Center wanted to do something special for their patients.

So they brought in an animator to help bring their young patients' happy places to life.

All photos from Children's Healthcare of Atlanta.

These kids are going through an unimaginably difficult time in their lives, but when they need to get away, these are the places they dream of escaping to:

1. Lauren's land of sparkles helps the 11-year-old through her recovery.

Lauren spent years of her young life fighting off a brain tumor. During her treatments, Lauren would go to her happy place, where "everything is sparkly."

BEFORE:

It's a land of pink, purple, and blue, covered in flowers. There are puppies, fairies, unicorns with soft horns (so they don't hurt the puppies, obviously), strawberries, Barbies, and best of all, her therapy dog, Hope.

AFTER:

2. 11-year-old Mya escapes to the sunny beaches of Rio.

Mya was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, or bone cancer, earlier this year. She underwent chemotherapy, but eventually lost the lower part of her left leg when it was amputated. She fights on with the help of her happy place.

BEFORE:

Mya's happy place is Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. In her happy place, she doesn't need crutches or her wheelchair. Instead, she's free to enjoy the sun and feel the ocean's salty breeze. Surrounded by soccer and multi-colored toucans, Mya's happiness is a beach-themed paradise.

AFTER:

3. 13-year-old Hunter's land of magic is a welcome break from his everyday stress.

Diagnosed with brain cancer last year, Hunter's gone through much more than most other boys his age. He's endured rounds of chemotherapy, surgeries, and radiation; but he's still here, being as brave as can be. His happy place is like nothing you'd see anywhere on earth.

BEFORE:

There's a walrus (who also happens to be a wizard), there are flying pandas, and flying dolphins to ride. The pandas float as high as clouds, and the people of the land live in perfect happiness. It's a carefree land where he doesn't need to feel afraid. It's his happy place, and it's wonderful.

AFTER:

4. Justice's Italian castle keeps the 16-year-old in the game.

In 2013, Justice was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. It wasn't fair, and she knew it. Knowing that makes her afraid and angry, but her happy place brings some joy back into her life.

BEFORE:

Her happy place is a picnic located outside an Italian castle. There's a crisp smell of autumn in the air, and the sun shines down on her. Her basket is filled with pastas, cheeses, breads, and pastries. She's surrounded by tall, beautiful trees with colorful leaves; animals scurry around her, hoping for some dropped crumbs or a loose roll of bread. She doesn't need to feel afraid; she doesn't need to feel angry.

AFTER:

Seeing their happy places brought to life was met with exactly the reaction CHOA hoped: joy.

Just look how happy Justice was to see her happy place brought to life:

<3

There are few things as powerful as the imagination of a child. And to see that energy put to use by bringing these young patients happiness in the midst of such hardship is truly heartwarming.

You can check out interviews with the kids and CHOA staff at this great video they put together below:

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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In 2015, Gravity Payments CEO Dan Price had a life-changing epiphany.

Price, who founded Gravity with his brother in 2004, was out hiking in the Cascade Mountains with his friend, Valerie. She told him her landlord had raised her rent by $200 and she was struggling to get by on her $40,000 a year income. Price, who was making $1.1 million a year as CEO of Gravity, was struck by her story. Not only did he feel for Valerie—a military veteran working two jobs and barely making ends meet—realized that some of his own employees might be facing similar struggles.

And they were. One employee frankly told him his entry-level salary was a rip-off. Another employee had secretly been working at McDonald's outside of work hours to make ends meet. So Price decided to make a drastic change by investing in his employees.

He researched how much money the average person would need in order to live comfortably and settled on $70,000 a year. In one fell swoop, he dropped his own salary to that amount, while also making it the minimum salary for anyone who worked at Gravity.

The move drew media coverage—and dire predictions from pundits. On Fox News and other conservative outlets he was called "foolish," a "socialist" and a "lunatic of lunatics." Rush Limbaugh called the company policy "pure unadulterated socialism" that was "going to fail" and should be a case study in MBA programs on how socialism doesn't work. Talking heads predicted that his employees would end up in the welfare line.

Six years later, Price has proved the haters wrong—by a lot.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

Keep Reading Show less