Zooming Past Cancer to a “New Normal”

By Patrick McGee

Rina Cantrell zooms about on a scooter, then grabs a hula hoop to give it a whirl, all while talking about her spunky dog, Milo.

One would never know that the Dallas first grader had braved two surgeries and 42 weeks of chemotherapy to get to this point, and she has four long strings of beads to prove it. The “beads of courage” are awarded to patients at Children’s Medical Center when they have to, among other things, make it through a difficult treatment, endure a shot or lie still for a scan.

A tumor and half of her bladder were removed. In a second surgery, the rest of her bladder had to be removed. Tubes now exit her abdomen directly from her kidneys.

“She doesn’t know any different. That’s her normal, so we’re going to look at it as positive,” her mother, Angela Cantrell, said. “She, of course, has many years of rebuilding what cancer damaged, but in time it will work out so we are very fortunate.”

Rina’s longest hospitalization lasted 36 days, and she said she enjoyed the opportunities to draw and paint as well as seeing the hospital’s clowns and huge train set. Mrs. Cantrell said her daughter’s health went through a rollercoaster at times, but the family drew confidence from the doctors and other health care professionals in the Pauline Allen Gill Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders – a program recently ranked among the top 15 pediatric cancer programs in the country and No. 1 in the region.

“I feel so thankful that we were at Children’s because I feel like there wasn’t just one brain focusing on my daughter; there was a team,” she said. “I just felt very confident that they were moving in the right direction with her even though it was scary.”

Mrs. Cantrell said she found solace and support from other parents going through the same thing and from the staff at Children’s. She said simple things, like a chaplain offering to sit with Rina so she could go for a walk, were a great help.

“She didn’t ask questions; she just respected my quietness, and I was so thankful for that. It was very generous to just have a second for myself,” Mrs. Cantrell said. “It was peaceful when she was around. I liked that.”

Pastoral care at Children’s is a component of the hospital’s renowned Family Support Services, which includes the Funnyatrics clown program that helped keep Rina’s days lighter. It is just one of the many ways in which Children’s Medical Center makes life better for children, and Family Support Services is supported entirely with philanthropic dollars.


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