Stories about: Dana-Farber/Children Hospital Cancer Center (DF/CHCC)

The many faces of childhood cancer: Caitlynne McGaff

Caitlynne McGaff is an active 17-year-old. She owes a lot of her mobility to an innovative surgery she had at Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s Hospital Cancer Center to treat her osteosarcoma. This is her story.

Caitlynne McGaff

When most people my age talk about a day they’ll never forget, they mention getting their license, or a great sweet sixteen party. For me, it’s a little different. I’ll never forget March 1, 2001, because it was the day I was diagnosed with cancer.

I was just 6 years old at the time, and honestly didn’t fully understand what was happening when the doctor said I had a bone tumor known as osteosarcoma growing just above my knee. But from the shocked looks on my parents’ faces I knew it was big. The rest of the day is a blur. We went from doctor to doctor, office to office, as my new medical team explained my treatment plan to me and my parents. It was a whirlwind, but over time everything became normal, almost comforting.

The Dana-Farber/ Boston Children’s became like a second home to my family and me. Wednesdays were the longest day because that’s when I had chemotherapy. But the staff at Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s offers so many entertainment options to its patients you almost forget why you’re there. I may have spent hours tethered to an IV that delivered my medications, but all I remember are the endless arts and crafts projects I did, or the time spent with nurses and doctors I came to see as friends. (Not to mention hours and hours of board games.)

When my chemotherapy session was over I’d head to my room on 7 West, Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s own treatment wing. The similarities between the Jimmy Fund Clinic and the hospital inpatient area are plenty; there’s a surplus of activities in the craft room, tons of movies to watch or games to play and people to hang out with that understand just how much a simple smile can mean to a child in the hospital.

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