Between the horse-drawn carriage rides and custom poetry, the recent annual CHOC Oncology Patient Ball Presented by J. Willard and Alice S. Marriott Foundation most certainly lived up to its theme of “The Enchanted Ball.”
Attending a high school prom or dance is not always possible for many patients who battle long-term, life-threatening illnesses like cancer. Committed to preserving the magic of childhood, CHOC has hosted the Oncology Patient Ball annually for more than two decades to ensure oncology patients don’t miss out on this important rite of passage.
This event celebrates these teens’ and young adults’ courageous battles and tenacity. Hospitalization or health concerns can often keep these teens from attending their own proms. Also, some teens may be self-conscious after cancer treatments that alter their appearances. This event allows everyone an opportunity to enjoy their prom in a safe, judgment-free environment.
On this night, every attendee is prom royalty.
Festivities begin with an opportunity for guests to choose a free dress or tuxedo, as well as an opportunity for hair and makeup. Then, the magical night unfolds to include dinner, dancing, dessert and so, so many photo opportunities.
The Oncology Ball echoes CHOC’s overall patient-care philosophy. It’s an example of the pediatric health system’s many efforts to normalize the hospital environment, allow kids to feel like kids, and ensure illness or injury doesn’t put childhood on pause.
Each September marks Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, but pediatric cancers also impact older patients, like adolescent and adults. The most effective way to treat pediatric cancers is with pediatric cancer protocols designed by doctors and nurses who specialize in treating those cancers. Oncologists and hospitals that normally only treat adult patients may not have the background or treatments available that teens and young adults with pediatric cancers need.
The Hyundai Cancer Institute at CHOC is one of the only pediatric cancer programs in the country with a dedicated program for teens and young adults. That means that because of CHOC’s groundbreaking program, when a teen or young adult is diagnosed with a pediatric type of cancer, they get treatment from two types of oncology experts: one who specializes in their type of cancer and one who specializes in the needs of adolescents and young adults.
Many of these patients find themselves at a unique crossroads: When these young adults’ lives should be full of football games; high school or college classes; dating; spending time with friends; or planning for their future; they are interrupted by cancer. The risk for depression is high in these patients, which can impact their treatment.
To that end, The Richard C. and Virginia A. Hunsaker Adolescent and Young Adult Oncology Child Life Program offers a range of activities and experiences to help meet these patients’ unique needs.
One of the country’s only such programs, CHOC’s AYA Child Life Program offers weekly events for patients to connect with one another, activities within CHOC Hospital’s patient care areas to connect patients while hospital, as well as the Ball.