Meet the Real Gigi

Gigi Pasley knows the impact of cancer.

When she was two-years-old, her twin sister Jade, died after a bone marrow transplant to cure her of Acute Myelogenous Leukemia (AML).

During the same time her twin sister was undergoing the bone marrow transplant, Gigi began chemotherapy for the same form of cancer. Gigi’s battle with cancer did not stop there. After two relapses followed by two separate bone marrow transplants, the then 10-year-old developed a secondary cancer called osteosarcoma in her left femur. 

Now a four-time cancer survivor, Gigi, 16, is a junior at Centennial High School in Franklin, TN.

She is one of the seven cartoon characters featured in the Chemo Duck program to encourage, support and educate patients during treatment through play therapy.“I think it is really important to not over complicate things,” said Gigi. “I know that diseases can be complicated and confusing. But the people, who have the disease, need to be able to comprehend in the simplest terms what is happening to them.

“They deserve to be able to understand,” she said. “Chemo Duck puts that into practice in a fun way.”

Gigi said it is so important that Chemo Duck is cuddly and plush because oftentimes the medical environment that patients are required to be a part of for treatment and care can be frightening.

“All of the medications, treatments and rules are there to help you to get better, but it can be really, really hard and super strict,” recalled Gigi. “When most of the tools and things a patient must experience are not happy, Chemo Duck is something a doctor can use that can be like a security blanket.

“After a while, as you learn that you have to go through with the therapy and you begin to get use to the routine, at least with Chemo Duck you have something soft and comforting to hang onto.”

Gigi hopes to become a child life specialist, a trained professional with expertise in helping children and their families in healthcare settings overcome life’s most challenging events. Child life specialists promote effective coping through play, preparation, education, and self-expression activities and utilize Chemo Duck in daily practice with their cancer patients.

All of us at Gabe’s Chemo Duck Program support Gigi in her mission and are thrilled to have her on our team!

Zack’s Mirror Image

Ian Hughes doesn’t mince words.

“Chemo Duck is pure genius,” he said. “In a nutshell it is absolutely fantastic.”

Ian, is the father of nine-year-old Zachary and has been very pleased with how his son was able to use Chemo Duck to communicate during his nearly four years of cancer treatment while a patient at Birmingham Children’s Hospital in England, UK. 

Zack, pictured left, with his younger brother Toby.

In December 2007, Zack was diagnosed with ALL. Soon after he received Chemo Duck, which the Hughes family carried with them to all of Zack’s clinic and hospital stays, which he simply called ‘Duck’.

“Duck gave my child a chance to understand what was happening or at least be able to rationalize what was happening,” said Ian. “It didn’t make things go away, but it did make going through some of the daily routines a bit easier.”

Chemo Duck comes outfitted with either a central line or a port-a-catheter, depending on the cancer diagnosis and treatment required. The Hughes’ decided to add a few other elements to Zack’s duck in an effort to provide their son with an even more realistic picture.

In the UK, the central line catheters are called wigglies. Zack’s grandmother made him a wiggly bag to hold the lines safely when not in use. Duck also received his own wiggly bag.

When Zack required a naso-gastric tube (ng), Duck got one too. Duck became a mirror image, so to speak of Zack, which was essential as the Hughes’ discovered that their son was dealing with more than a cancer diagnosis.

Within months they found that he had Klinefelter Syndrome, a set of symptoms resulting from additional X genetic material in males, which is characterized by signs developmental delays, speech and language deficits, and learning disabilities.

An autism diagnosis followed one year later.

Designed as a therapeutic tool to assist parents and medical personnel better prepare children for chemotherapy, Zack’s duck had a few unexpected advantages, said Hughes.

“Because of the Klinefelter’s, he has very little expressive language and cannot tell us that he is pain for instance,” explained Ian. “He couldn’t explain things or even talk. So we found that Duck was a good thing because it helped him with his frustrations and anger. We saw him either imitate what the doctors were going to do or if he was angry, he would take it out on Duck.

“For special needs kids like Zack,” said Ian, “Chemo Duck gave him play therapy and a way to rationalize what was going on. That was very useful to us as his parents to see that he knew what was happening.”

Now in remission, Zack’s last chemo was in 2011, Duck watches over him from a shelf in his room.

Get to Know Kare Krates

Providing cancer patients with loving care packages is now just a few mouse clicks away at Designed to help patients cope with the most common side effects of chemotherapy treatments, Kare Krate care packages provide a convenient way to support friends or loved ones diagnosed with cancer.

We are proud to partner with Kare Krate for a special package featuring Chemo Ducks, furthering our mission to support little ones diagnosed with cancer.

Kare Krate’s current products include a Basic, Comfy and Complete Krate. Every single care package includes items that address the most common side effects of cancer treatment like:

  • Anti-nausea pops, mints, and ginger teas to ease nausea
  • Toothpaste, toothbrush and mouthwash to alleviate dry mouth
  • Moisturizing lotions and creams to keep skin hydrated

The Comfy and Complete care packages include the basics plus extra comfort items that help make treatments at the hospitals or at home a little more cozy.

“While get well cards and flowers are nice, Kare Krates provide comfort with essentials to help offset the side effects of chemotherapy,” says Chris Keller, founder of Kare Krate. “Kare Krate conveniently packages and ships the items that health care professionals suggest will help patients undergoing treatment — allowing loved ones more time to offer support in other ways.”

Learn more at

The Ultimate Comfort

Soon after her son was diagnosed with a brain cancer called anaplastic ependymoma, Lisa DeYoung was scanning through a brain tumor foundation website and stumbled upon Chemo Duck.

She had no idea that Chemo Duck existed and is so glad she purchased one for her then 3 year old son.

The comfort and connection Chemo Duck brought to Jack was enormous, she said.

“He had lots of toys and things to play with and distract him, but none of them was like him,” said DeYoung. “I wanted to get him something that he could identify with and looked like him. It turned out to be one of the best things ever.”

Athough Jack, now 8 years old, is no longer in treatment, Chemo Duck is still close by.

“He had Chemo Duck with him the whole time we were in the hospital and when we had appointments,” she recalled. “Through the years he just got very attached to him. He still sleeps with him.”

The bright yellow stuffed animal not only served as an educational tool during his treatments, but became so much more.

“Chemo Duck is important for kids like Jack who are going through a lot of scary and new things,” said his mom. “Being able to show Jack and kids like him what is going to happen really helps allay their fears. He is an invaluable teaching tool and a source of comfort for kids going through cancer treatments.”

Each duck comes outfitted with a catheter sewn into its chest to resemble the line that is central to a chemotherapy patient’s treatment. Jack’s Chemo Duck has an additional resemblance – an incision to match that of his owner.

For the DeYoungs, it helped their son to be able to interact with something that was very similar to himself.

“Chemo Duck was the only toy he had that could be just like him,” she explained. “He was able to play with Chemo Duck in ways he couldn’t play with his other toys and he would hook up a feeding tube to him.”

Easing Sore Mouths & Mouth Sores

Both Chemotherapy and radiation treatment can destroy the cells that line the mouth; this can lead to dry mouth and painful mouth sores. This can make feeding your child, a difficult situation already, almost unbearable. This may be a time to consider using more liquid meals to avoid having to chew solid foods. The following ideas are foods that are easy to eat and will coat little mouths to ease discomfort. – Lu Sipos 

Food ideas that help soothe a sore mouth or throat:

  • cold yogurt
  • frozen yogurt bites
  • frozen yogurt tubes
  • Jello-O
  • Jell-O Jigglers
  • cold pudding
  • popsicles
  • ice cream
  • soft-serve yogurt
  • mashed potatoes

Food ideas that are easier to eat with a sore mouth or throat:

  • mashed potatoes
  • bananas
  • pasta
  • smoothies

Recipe – Sore Mouth Smoothies & Soothies

    • 1 cup whole milk
    • 1 cup vanilla yogurt
    • 1 cup canned fruit, include syrup or juice (pears, peaches, mixed fruit)
    • add almond or vanilla extract to taste


  • combine ingredients in a blender (mix completely).
    **For a Sore Mouth Smoothie: chill mixture and serve.
    Try serving in a sippy cup with a large spout opening, cup with a wide straw, bottle with the tip of the nipple cut off, or an open cup.