Peyton Manning Children's Hospital at Ascension St. Vincent


October 2023

Ascension Indiana caregivers share personal stories of childhood cancer

Several members of the pediatric oncology staff at Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital at Ascension St. Vincent, part of Ascension Indiana, shared their personal stories of childhood cancer with WHAS 11 in honor of Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. The staff’s stories inspire the patients they now care for at the same hospital where staff members received treatment.

Pediatric oncologist Doug Cipkala, MD, was 14 years old when he noticed a lump in his neck that led to a diagnosis of Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

“I know the data, and I am well aware that I am very fortunate and lucky to still be here. I count my blessings every day,” Dr. Cipkala said.

He now works alongside nurse intern Rachel Northam, who is also a childhood cancer survivor. Rachel told WHAS 11 that she received months of treatment for synovial sarcoma in the same building where she now works. Her cancer journey started when she was 11 years old.

Nurse Lexy Sanders also was a patient at Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital, battling non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma at age 15. She had had a golf ball-sized tumor in her lower abdomen which grew to the size of a volleyball.

“It had engulfed a lot of my bowels, intestines, and my entire right ovary and fallopian tube,” she told WHAS 11.

Lexy said during her six months of treatment, one moment with one nurse changed the course of her life when she commented on the nurse’s Tiffany & Co. necklace.

“Not knowing me, she took it off and put it on my neck in that moment. She left, and I never saw her again,” she told WHAS 11. “I was like, ‘That’s what I want to do when I grow up.’ I still have the necklace, and I still wear it. I think about her a lot. Now, I am three years into being an oncology nurse, and it’s because of her.”

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