Inspired by nurse, young cancer survivor now studies nursing

November 28, 2013 | by

Cancer survivors often say they’re thankful – for a second chance, for more time with their families, for lessons learned. But sometimes that thankfulness focuses on a specific person. For cancer survivor Hannah Komai, that person is pediatric oncology nurse Molly Lambert.

Nurse Molly Lambert. Photo credit: City of Hope

Pediatric oncology nurse Molly Lambert encouraged, and inspired, a young City of Hope patient fighting osteosarcoma. Photo credit: City of Hope

Hannah Komai came to City of Hope in 2010 at the age of 20 with osteosarcoma, an aggressive bone cancer most often diagnosed in teenagers.

Her normal life, as she says, “was put on pause.” Instead of entering Pacific Lutheran College on a scholarship, she would be spending her summer – and foreseeable future – undergoing difficult and intense treatment to save her life.

Komai endured 15 weeks of intense chemotherapy as well as surgery to remove six inches of her right femur, knee and a tibia and replace them with stainless steel. After months, Komai finally went into remission. Then came the grueling physical therapy. She spent her 21st birthday learning how to use a walker.

During her treatment and recovery, Komai found support and strength in Lambert, a nurse very close to her own age. Lambert would come spend time with Komai at the end of her day, making tough moments less lonely and tough days more bearable.

Lambert is the primary inspiration behind Komai’s decision to enroll in nursing school to become a pediatric oncology nurse herself.  For Lambert, the bond is mutual.

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As written by Hannah Komai

Cancer survivor Hannah Komai

Hannah Komai underwent treatment for osteosarcoma at City of Hope. The treatment, and the recovery, were grueling, but nurse Molly Lambert was there to help. Komai hasn't forgotten. Photo credit: City of Hope

Molly has been a great person to look up to throughout my journey. She not only inspired me to continue on while I was in treatment, but continues to do so while going through nursing school.

I find that we have similar personalities, and I can really see a part of me in her. I hope to one day be as amazing a nurse as she is. She would fight to be able to take care of me when I was in the hospital. If she didn't get to take care of me, she always was sure to stop in and spend some time with me.

It was nice having a relationship with someone of a similar age as me. She really understood what I was missing out on, but was able to guide me to stay positive.

I will never forget, it was during a time when I was truly struggling. It was in the middle of treatment, and just felt like it was never-ending. I was having a day of tears, and losing all hope. She came in, and just chatted with me. I can't recall exactly our exchange in words, but I always knew I could just cry to her if I needed.

When I think about the kind of nurse I want to be, I picture Molly. I want to have her upbeat personality. I want to have relationships with not only the patients, but with their families as well.

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As written by Molly Lambert

I have lots of patient stories, but Hannah is very special to me.

Hannah came to us as a teenager and needed a lot of encouragement as she was physically changing. She was losing her hair, having side effects from steroids and getting used to a new scar on her leg. She had difficulty and pain doing the things she would normally do. She was trying to be independent and grow as a teenage girl when she received a diagnosis where you get little choice.

I tried to encourage her as the beautiful girl that she is, spent lots of time with her giving her education about her treatment, listening to her stories, and giving her as many choices as possible. I would draw her pictures to describe her treatment and would have other members of our team (like the pharmacist) come in to do mini lectures for her. She loved to learn and I loved to teach her.

She has a heart of gold and is going to make an amazing nurse someday.