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'Aunt Ginny' Brings Hope To Children's Cancer Care

Ginny Escobedo, oncology nurse at Westchester Medical Center, has a little-known statistic she wants to share with you: More than 75 percent. That's the cure rate for children with cancer.

It's the number she tells strangers surprised by what she describes as an upbeat job. It's the number she recites like a mantra to families who need to hear it the most.  "The number of survivors is really much greater than children who are lost," she said.

Escobedo has been a pediatric oncology nurse at the medical center in Valhalla for almost 25 years. She said nurses always play a key role in patient care, but oncology nurses often forge strong relationships with families because cancer treatments take weeks or months.

“I have been to weddings and made a godmother on more than one occasion,” she said.

Escobedo, a New Rochelle resident, has been with Maria Fereri Children’s Hospital’s outpatient infusion center for 15 years. She currently runs the place. The job means she works with children who come for treatments that range from 30 minutes to 10 hours at a time. She handles everything from chemotherapy treatments to training parents for patient care at home.

Escobedo said new drugs make undergoing treatments less difficult. Some youngsters “barely even get sick,” she said. She said that she finds the children at the center an inspiration. Unlike adults, kids often take their treatments in stride, as if they were another part of a normal day. Some say they are going to “Ginny’s Place,” when they are headed to the outpatient center.

“Kids are amazing," Escobedo said. "If they are a feeling okay, they just go.” For those more seriously ill, the hospital has a dedicated wing that, Escobedo said, provides a hidden benefit. “For families it’s nice, because everybody there is going through the same thing,” she said. “It provides a natural support system.”

She described family members and patients walking into the hallway or common area to meet with others who are experiencing very similar things. "They don't need a formal support group,” she said. “It is right there naturally."

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