Sunday, April 26, 2015

Sometimes it's social, sometimes it's work

My name is Renee Rawlins and I have the privilege of being the social worker who supports Rachel and her parents through this journey.

Sometimes it’s social, sometimes it’s work

Hello, my name is Renee Rawlins and I have the privilege of being the social worker who supports Rachel and her parents through this journey.

As a pediatric oncology social worker, my role is very different from patient to patient depending on their unique needs and the needs of their family. My role includes but is not limited to: providing supportive counseling to the patient and their family, providing education about hospital and community resources (Connelly Resource Center, Ronald McDonald House), helping patients and families connect with people and organizations outside of the hospital, helping to plan for going back to school, and generally partnering with them to advocate for themselves in the sometimes confusing and challenging world of living with cancer.

When I meet with patients and families I tell them they are allowed to have bad days but they will also have good days. This surprises families at first but with Rachel, her good days have greatly outnumbered her bad days. This is largely due to her relentless enthusiasm and positive attitude. On days that are not so great for Rachel, the other members of the psychosocial team and I get creative and work with her parents to come up with ways we can ease her burdens. Rachel also has a large support system of family and friends who help ensure those good days outnumber the bad days.

Recently my work with Rachel and her family has included how to balance Rachel’s focus on her cancer treatment and getting well with her brave willingness to share her experience in a blog.

When I asked Rachel what her opinion is of what I do as her social worker she responded, “You visit me in my room to make sure I’m happy … and you bring fun stuff … and we talk fashion.” I’m good with that description. I am fortunate to meet a great many inspiring children. Rachel is an inspiration to me, other patients, and other families. Again, I say it is a privilege to be a part of this journey with you, Rachel.

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About this blog
Rachel Kovach, 12, is a seventh-grader at Mother Theresa Regional School in Atlantic Highlands, N.J. She lives in Highlands, N.J., near the Sandy Hook national seashore, with her parents, Mari and Kurt Kovach.

Since first grade, Rachel has been swimming with the Monmouth Barracudas, a year-round competitive United States Swimming Club program. She hopes to continue competitive swimming after her cancer treatment; if not, she envisions coaching someday or maybe a career in medicine. Figure skating and jazz dancing have been big parts of her life. One of the things she hates about being in the hospital is missing her dog Cocoa and her many friends.

Rachel's doctors

These are the key physicians overseeing Rachel’s care at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia:

Naomi BalamuthNaomi Balamuth, pediatric oncologist, specializes in treating pediatric sarcomas, a subset of solid tumors.



Richard B. WomerRichard B. Womer, pediatric oncologist, led studies of the latest chemotherapy treatment protocol for Ewing’s sarcoma.



John P. DormansJohn P. Dormans, M.D., chief of orthopaedic surgery, is an international expert in the surgical treatment of musculoskeletal tumors.


Timeline of Rachel Kovach’s Treatment

Dec. 3, 2010: Pain in Rachel's right knee is initially diagnosed as tendinitis.

Jan. 20: An MRI reveals a tumor in right leg.

Jan 24: Rachel sees John Dormans, chief of orthopedic surgery at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

Jan. 27: A biopsy confirms Ewing's sarcoma.

February to mid-April: Regimens of chemotherapy alternate every other week. The three-drug regimen is given over two days; the two-drug regimen is given over five days.

May 3: Surgery replaces most of the right femur with a prosthesis.

May 5: A Children's Hospital team will help Rachel get out of bed.

May 10 to September: Alternating regimens of chemotherapy are to resume.

Around May 10: Physical therapy will begin in the hospital and continue for at least several months after Rachel goes home.

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