A Wildcat for Life
“After my cancer diagnosis and treatment, I lived a normal, active childhood. But along the way, we lost a lot of family members to cancer. My dad’s dad, my Poppy, he passed away when I was almost eight years old. Then we lost my dad to cancer when I was 16. Then my dad’s sister was diagnosed with cancer. So, finally somebody, a geneticist, did some digging to find out—this is genetic, it’s not random.”
Christa Childers’ UK HealthCare story goes back a long way. She and her family have Li-Fraumeni Syndrome, a rare hereditary disorder that makes them susceptible to a variety of types of cancer—so rare that only about 400 families with the syndrome have been identified. She was first diagnosed with a soft tissue cancer in her leg at 21 months old, and was treated at UK children’s hospital. Since then, she’s been a student at the University, and was treated for two more cancers, all at UK. Today, she works there.
“Some of the people who took care of me when I was little, they’re now my coworkers. I am privileged to help provide care to patients in the way that they provided care to me. That’s a really special relationship—working with people that took care of me, and knowing that I’m able to provide care to my community because my coworkers provided care to me.”
Christa is a dietitian, helping manage patients’ care and promote healing through nutrition. She and her fellow dietitians are part of an interdisciplinary team of physicians and nurses, pharmacists, therapists and social workers who help manage all aspects of patient care, both in the hospital and once they return home. It’s a role Christa felt drawn to when she was a teenager, watching her own father go through cancer.
“Because of his treatment, my dad’s nutrition status declined pretty quickly. That was definitely a contributing factor to fulfill my desire to give back as a health care provider in the role of a dietitian, and just being in health care in general: being able to help other people that have gone through what I’ve gone through, what my dad went through, what my other family members have gone through.”
That desire to help others is leading Christa down a new path. She’s preparing to return to school full-time in fall 2019 to become a pharmacist. A lifelong learner, she’s been interested in pharmacy since she was an undergraduate at UK, and she’s excited about the opportunities that UK’s pharmacy school offers.
“Being an academic medical center, the passion that people have to do better and make sure that we are ahead of the curve and providing the best care that we can offer really inspires me and makes me want to stay here. The College of Pharmacy follows some of those same values—integrated research and learning and teaching. I want to continue learning, and I know that you’re not promised tomorrow, so if you have a dream, start planning and go for it.”