Childhood Cancer Awareness Month Has Special Meaning for Johns Hopkins Children’s Center Pediatric Oncology Nurse


For the past three years, nurse Lauren Chelenza has cared for hundreds of children with cancer while working on the pediatric oncology inpatient unit at Johns Hopkins Children’s Center in Baltimore. It’s a place she never imagined she’d be working 15 years ago, while going through her own cancer treatment. 

When she was 10 years old, Chelenza, who grew up near Philadelphia, was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a form of bone cancer, in her right arm. About 2% of childhood cancers are osteosarcoma, according to the American Cancer Society. Pain is often associated with osteosarcoma. “I didn’t have any pain, but I hadn’t been eating as much and was more tired than usual,” Chelenza recalls, who was diagnosed after an X-ray for an unrelated health reason. 

As part of her treatment, she went through 18 cycles of chemotherapy and limb-sparing surgery. During the procedure, her humerus bone was replaced with a metal rod, and nerves in her arm were removed. Chelenza, who was right-handed before her diagnosis, was still able to write with her right hand, but had to learn how to do other tasks, such as eating and reaching for items, with her left hand. She ended her treatment after a year and a half, at age 11, and remains in remission. 

Immediately following her treatment, she says she didn’t have intentions to return to a hospital environment. However, a few years later, she found her calling and decided to pursue nursing with the goal of focusing on pediatric oncology. “I thought it would be great to give back to these kids where I was once, in their bed and in their shoes,” Chelenza says. 

She set her sights on working at Johns Hopkins Children’s Center because it is an academic medical center. “Johns Hopkins offers the opportunity for patients with cancer to join clinical trials and to be treated with newer medications,” Chelenza says. 

She started working at Johns Hopkins while in nursing school, and has since cared for many patients with osteosarcoma. She will often use her experience to help patients going through cancer treatment. “I know it’s hard, and they don’t want to remember what they are going through, but I tell them to take it one day at a time and stay hopeful,” she says.

Chelenza is available for media interviews to discuss her experience and caring for patients at Johns Hopkins Children’s Center. 

September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, a time to raise awareness of childhood cancer and those affected by it.