Social worker has walked in their shoes: Aubrey Mora
Social worker gives back some of the support she received as a child
By Aubrey Mora, Four Diamonds Fund social worker
A cancer diagnosis can flip a family’s world upside down. I know that first-hand. I also know a helping hand can help flip it back.
When I was born, my left leg was somewhat bigger than my right leg, something my parents noticed right away.
Four months short of my second birthday, I was diagnosed with fibrosarcoma. My memories of the journey that followed are not vivid, but I do know that the tumor was very aggressive, and the doctors told my parents that I would require an amputation. Hard as that decision was for my parents to consider, they made the choice of life for me, and I had the operation to have my leg removed. I had surgery in August, and by October I was running around Disney World. They say that every cloud has a silver lining, and for me the silver lining was that I got to leave my baby sister at home! However, the clouds came back a few months later as I came down with a persistent low-grade fever. That fever resulted in my relapsing; now the cancer was in my lungs. Before my sixth birthday, I went through two years of chemotherapy, seven major surgeries and even the loss of part of my lung. Today, I am more than 25 years cancer free. The memories I have of going through treatment are minimal. Luckily, I do not recall sick or scary times. Instead, I have wonderful memories from Four Diamonds Events and THON, where I was treated like a little celebrity with lots of attention. I lived for Four Diamonds events and even thought THON weekend was a national holiday! My mom always says that I didn’t know I was sick. I loved the hospital and clinic, my doctors and nurses, child life and of course, my social worker. Life has thrown a lot of curveballs at me and I could have chosen to be a victim, but instead, I chose to hit those curveballs out of the park. I chose to learn from my struggles, overcome them and help others at the same time. Throughout my life, I never let the fact that I was missing part of my leg slow me down. I participated in many sports, including basketball, soccer and cheerleading. I completed a Half Ironman Triathlon in San Diego, Calif., three times. I earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology from the University of Pittsburgh in 2009 and a master of social work from Temple University in 2012. Since then, I married my best friend, am raising a daughter and a son and am a proud member of the Four Diamonds social work team. Now that I am one of Four Diamonds’ social workers, its work has a whole new meaning to me. I was too young to really recognize the magnitude of the Four Diamonds Fund and THON when I was going through treatment. My parents always said that Four Diamonds was a godsend, but I am not sure that I understood just how special the fund really is until I was working with our newly diagnosed families. As a Four Diamonds social worker, I focus on the psychosocial aspect of supporting our patients and families, concentrating on the adjustment from diagnosis, into treatment and through survivorship. It is an overwhelming experience every time I am able to sit down with a newly diagnosed family and explain the Four Diamonds Fund – and deliver the reassuring news that their medical expenses will be covered. Serving as an advocate for families, I help to address everyday concerns, including financial and educational questions, transportation and employment issues, as well as promoting healthy coping. I feel honored that I get to give back to Four Diamonds as they were able to give so much to me and my family during my journey. It is surreal to work side–y side with the incredible nurses, doctors and support staff who treated me so many years ago. I am inspired everyday by the resiliency of our young patients. As I walk through our inpatient unit or our outpatient clinic, I am often reminded of the quote, “Life is full of suffering, but it is also full of overcoming it.” Watching our patients overcome their suffering is one of the most awe-inspiring things I have ever experienced.