Tuesday , 28 November 2023

Childhood Cancer Survivor Now Works to Help Others Like Her

Feb. 6, 2023 — It might seem inevitable that Maggie Rogers, 33, a childhood cancer survivor, would one day end up pursuing a career related to cancer in some way. 

She reached that goal a few weeks ago when she started working as director of pediatric, adolescent and young adult cancer support at the American Cancer Society. Her tasks are broad, including directing the program initiatives, projects and activities around pediatric and young adult cancer. She’ll also work on raising money from partner groups and stakeholders, such as other nonprofits and companies.

Her decision to immerse herself in the cancer universe took some time.

“As a child, cancer was part of my identity,” says Rogers, who was diagnosed with stage III kidney cancer when she was 4 years old and recalls starting kindergarten bald from her intensive chemo treatments. “But to work in the cancer field and to also have had it initially seemed to be too close to home.”

With an undergraduate degree in psychology and a master’s in public health and epidemiology, she pursued health care-related jobs, which led to her previous work at the Center to Advance Palliative Care at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, where she worked for the past 8 years.

While there, her career goals began to shift as she began to wonder how she could better help patients themselves.

“My job at CAPC was removed from the impact we were having on actual patients since our main audience was health care professionals caring for patients,” she says. “I began thinking I’d be more interested in a position where there was a lot more direct impact on patients.”

As she got involved in patient groups and conversations on Twitter, she also started feeling more at ease with the possibility of transitioning into oncology work.

“I started getting a lot more comfortable with the concept of patient advocacy and knew I was in a unique position,” she says. “I began tweeting about my personal cancer experience and how this relates to our health care system.”

About 18 months ago, she did something else that was quite fulfilling: She joined the patient advocacy committee at the Children’s Oncology Group, the world’s largest organization devoted entirely to pediatric cancer research that’s supported by the National Cancer Institute.

“This puts me in the room where people are talking about clinical trials, how they’re designing them, and my role is to provide a patient voice to inject questions like ‘how is this trial going to impact fertility,’” she says.

This work helped her realize that she might be ready to do something meaningful in the cancer space.

“I realized I could be in a room talking about kids with cancer and that I’d be OK,” she says.

The fact that the first-ever chief patient officer at the American Cancer Society was someone Rogers had worked with over the course of her career made the decision to apply for the position an easy one.

“This job is the perfect fit for me,” she says. “It integrates my education, my personal experience, and my professional experience all together in one.”

One of the best parts for Rogers: A feeling that she’s not alone. 

“My personal experience shapes so much of the work I do, but everyone at the American Cancer Society is so open about loved ones who died of cancer,” she says. “This is so different from my last position.”

In fact, Rogers says she often hid the fact that she had cancer as a child from her co-workers.

“Then someone outed me and people were crying in the office,” she says. “It was uncomfortable for a short period of time. I’m so happy that, in this job, I’m not the token cancer voice.”

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