When Delfa Grecia, B.S.N., R.N., started working with pediatric patients in the outpatient clinic at City of Hope, “I would cry when they cried,” she recalled. “It is so hard not to be affected by their feelings. They are so little, and you just want to help.”
After more than 32 years, however, the Philippines native has “learned a few tricks. I learned how to play with them, what to do to make them feel better. Things have changed.”
In fact, Grecia said, so much has changed in the treatment of pediatric cancers during her three decades in nursing that she is “more optimistic and hopeful than ever before” as she works with her young patients.
“Before, there was maybe just one protocol and that was all you had to treat the patient,” she said. “Now, especially at City of Hope, there’s a lot of opportunity with new medications, new protocols, new studies and new research. There have been a lot of changes, and survival rates are higher.”
For Grecia, that translates to one of the best parts of her job: when patients return to visit after many years of remission. “I don’t recognize them at first,” she said, laughing. “I say, ‘Boy, you’re taller than me!’ I have had patients who visit when they’re married, when they have their own kids. It gives me so much joy.”
One of Grecia’s former patients – who began a six-year treatment program at age 4 – is now a 24-year-old medical student at Stanford University. “I hadn’t seen him for ages, and then I saw him recently. I was so happy.”
That joy, she said, is what keeps her coming back every year.
“I think about retiring, but I don’t really have any plans,” she confessed. “These kids are so cute, so special. How could I leave them?”