Social worker has walked in their shoes: Aubrey Mora

By Aubrey Mora, Four Diamonds Fund social worker

A cancer diagnosis can flip a family’s world upside down. I know that first-hand. I also know a helping hand can help flip it back.

When I was born, my left leg was somewhat bigger than my right leg, something my parents noticed right away.

Four months short of my second birthday, I was diagnosed with fibrosarcoma. My memories of the journey that followed are not vivid, but I do know that the tumor was very aggressive, and the doctors told my parents that I would require an amputation. Hard as that decision was for my parents to consider, they made the choice of life for me, and I had the operation to have my leg removed. I had surgery in August, and by October I was running around Disney World. They say that every cloud has a silver lining, and for me the silver lining was that I got to leave my baby sister at home! However, the clouds came back a few months later as I came down with a persistent low-grade fever. That fever resulted in my relapsing; now the cancer was in my lungs. Before my sixth birthday, I went through two years of chemotherapy, seven major surgeries and even the loss of part of my lung. Today, I am more than 25 years cancer free. The memories I have of going through treatment are minimal. Luckily, I do not recall sick or scary times. Instead, I have wonderful memories from Four Diamonds Events and THON, where I was treated like a little celebrity with lots of attention. I lived for Four Diamonds events and even thought THON weekend was a national holiday! My mom always says that I didn’t know I was sick. I loved the hospital and clinic, my doctors and nurses, child life and of course, my social worker. Life has thrown a lot of curveballs at me and I could have chosen to be a victim, but instead, I chose to hit those curveballs out of the park. I chose to learn from my struggles, overcome them and help others at the same time. Throughout my life, I never let the fact that I was missing part of my leg slow me down. I participated in many sports, including basketball, soccer and cheerleading. I completed a Half Ironman Triathlon in San Diego, Calif., three times. I earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology from the University of Pittsburgh in 2009 and a master of social work from Temple University in 2012. Since then, I married my best friend, am raising a daughter and a son and am a proud member of the Four Diamonds social work team. Now that I am one of Four Diamonds' social workers, its work has a whole new meaning to me. I was too young to really recognize the magnitude of the Four Diamonds Fund and THON when I was going through treatment. My parents always said that Four Diamonds was a godsend, but I am not sure that I understood just how special the fund really is until I was working with our newly diagnosed families. As a Four Diamonds social worker, I focus on the psychosocial aspect of supporting our patients and families, concentrating on the adjustment from diagnosis, into treatment and through survivorship. It is an overwhelming experience every time I am able to sit down with a newly diagnosed family and explain the Four Diamonds Fund - and deliver the reassuring news that their medical expenses will be covered. Serving as an advocate for families, I help to address everyday concerns, including financial and educational questions, transportation and employment issues, as well as promoting healthy coping. I feel honored that I get to give back to Four Diamonds as they were able to give so much to me and my family during my journey. It is surreal to work side--y side with the incredible nurses, doctors and support staff who treated me so many years ago. I am inspired everyday by the resiliency of our young patients. As I walk through our inpatient unit or our outpatient clinic, I am often reminded of the quote, "Life is full of suffering, but it is also full of overcoming it." Watching our patients overcome their suffering is one of the most awe-inspiring things I have ever experienced.