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Doctors rely on each other to cope with childhood cancer

According to the American Cancer Society, more than 10,000 children younger than 15 will be diagnosed with some form of cancer this year.

Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University Health is one of the top hospitals in the country in treating pediatric cancer. Each year, Riley treats an average of 200 children with childhood cancer and provides care for about 350 ongoing cancer patients.

News 8’s Cody Adams knows well the role that Riley and its staff play in caring for children with cancer because his oldest daughter, Madi, was diagnosed with cancer shortly after birth.

All this week, you’ll get the “INside Story” about what children go through as they fight for their lives, how the illness and its treatment impacts their families, and how Riley makes a difference in the battle against childhood cancer.

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Paula Towell has been a pediatric nurse practitioner for more than 30 years. She’s taken care of a lot of kids over that time.

“Paula’s amazing, she’s such a nice friend,” said one of her patients, Madi Adams.

Another one of Paula’s patients, Kendall Wynne said, “If there was darkness in my room she would just bring the light to my room honestly, it’s just something about her that changes my whole mood.”

She has dedicated her life to treating children and families going through the unimaginable. She has connected on a deeper level with most of those families. Sometimes the outcome is not what is hoped.

“Sometimes with a patient, especially in transplant, sometimes the outcomes are not very good, and so you realize that you are making a difference in the days that are really tough,” said Towell.

Losing a patient is a feeling she says you never get over.

“You never get used to that. Somedays you don’t want to come in,” said Towell. “Some days you just want to go do something else, or just not be here, but then you have to realize there are other kids that depend on you.”

In 2014, Dr. Jodi Skiles had just given birth to her first child, when she returned to work her first patient was our daughter Madi. The parallels for her while treating Madi made it difficult at times.

“We don’t do it perfectly, there were many days that it was hard examining Madi and not feel like I was examining my own baby,” said Skiles. “So when Madi had really hard days in transplant, I didn’t feel it certainly to extent you guys did, but it was hard to go home at the end of those days and when I would go home I’d snuggle my kids a little differently.”

It’s an inner battle the doctors and nurses at Riley Hospital for Children deal with everyday. They may leave the building for the day, but those patients go with them.

“I could not do this job without my colleagues around me, and partnering with me in care and propping each other up when we’ve had a bad day,” said Skiles. “We get to know these kids and families like they’re our own, and we grieve them like they are our own. It’s helpful to have teammates that understand that depth of relationship that we have and are willing to support us in it, and walk through it with us even on the hard days.”

It takes a lot out of them physically and emotionally, but it also fuels the fire to keep going.

“That part of my job is the most difficult thing we deal with right? That’s where my family and my faith play a role in my coping, but I think the other part that if fuels is a desire that we have to learn more we have to do more,” said Skiles. “You kinda come back with a burning fuel to say, we have to keep going because we have to find better solutions.”

And when they do keep going, and the see patients like Kendall and Madi thriving, Dr. Kent Robertson says it makes it all worth it.

“That is the real paycheck, right there,” said Robertson. “To be able to see that child comeback and their doing the things they want to do, they’re going to school, they’re getting getting married, they’re going on to have their own lives. that’s as good a paycheck as you could ever hope for.”