Chemo Duck Shares More Love

There was so much love for some of our local nonprofits that it’s spilling over into another newsletter!

Gilda’s Club Nashville and Dreams and Wishes of Tennessee have been longtime friends of Chemo Duck and we want to share the great things each group is doing for children with cancer.

Gilda’s Club is an affiliate of the Cancer Support Community and is dedicated to providing support, education and hope to all people impacted by cancer. All of the programs offered at the clubhouse are free of charge including support groups, healthy lifestyle workshops, mind-body classes, social activities, educational lectures and community resource information.

Felice Apolinsky, LCSW, program director at the Nashville Gilda’s, said the mission of Chemo Duck and Gilda’s is very closely aligned.

“Chemo Duck is a remarkable educational and emotionally supportive tool,” said Apolinsky. “Not just for the child, but for the parents of the diagnosed child, for their siblings and their friends. It’s a conversation starter, a non-threatening way to talk about difficult topics…improve communication and help make something that is really terrifying – cancer – less terrifying.

“We too focus on education, support, empowerment and building community. Knowledge creates empowerment, and empowerment creates confidence and comfort.”

The Sipos’ have been participants at Gilda’s Club Nashville for more than a decade.

“I owe a great deal to Gilda’s Club both professionally and personally,” said Sipos. “Chemo Duck has partnered with Gilda’s Club for many years to provide emotional support for children living with cancer. We could not imagine working with a more amazing organization.”

Chemo Duck has served as an inspiration for the founder of Dreams and Wishes of Tennessee, Tanya Sturm.

The organization grants wishes to individuals between the ages of 5–21 who have relapsed from cancer. It also assists with granting wishes to young adults with life threatening illnesses who have never received a wish from other wish granting groups.

“Over the years I have become close to Lu and Gabe,” said Sturm. “I actually still have one of the original Chemo Ducks in my office. Lu has been an inspiration to me.

“I love Chemo Duck and all that it stands for. It’s a fabulous nonprofit and they have helped so many kids.”

Sipos seconds Sturm’s sentiments for Dreams and Wishes.

“Tonya is a huge inspiration to me,” said Sipos. “She is incredibly dedicated to helping children achieve their wishes, and her love for those children is so tangible! It is truly inspiring to watch Dreams and Wishes grow.”

Cuddly Friend for Cora

In February 2016, after a long battle for a diagnosis, the Cornell family finally got their answer. Their two-year-old daughter, Cora had Metachromatic Leukodystrophy (MLD), a rare and normally fatal disease.

The only established treatment for MLD is a stem cell transplant and clinical trials that will help improve the results of those transplants. As their only viable option, the Cornells enrolled Cora in a phase 1 clinical trial at Duke University.

Shortly after Cora woke up from a pre-transplant surgery, which included the placement of her central line and an appendectomy as well as other procedures, one of Duke’s Child Life Specialists gave Cora a Chemo Duck. Confused and in pain, she grabbed Chemo Duck, snuggling him tightly.

It was in that moment that Cora and Chemo Duck became friends for life.

“We’d never heard of Chemo Duck before,” said Cora’s mother, Sarah. “But we are so grateful that Duke’s Child Life Specialists know how important Chemo Duck can be.”

Cora spent the whole next day happily playing the doctor to Chemo Duck’s patient. She pretended to remove his appendix with scissors and place his chest tube. Since then, Cora’s Chemo Duck doctor play has consistently been the best way she has to make sense of what’s happening to her and to exert some small measure of control over her life.

“Whenever Cora is having a tough time, Chemo Duck helps her through it. Because we’re in a transplant unit, we don’t have a lot of space and cleanliness is of the utmost importance,” said Sarah. “I love that Chemo Duck provides both medical play and a cuddly friend, and stands up well to machine washing. We highly recommend Chemo Duck for every toddler undergoing chemotherapy.”