When Jillian was diagnosed with Rhabdomyosarcoma, a form of pediatric cancer, the once self-confident and energetic girl became withdrawn and sad.
Jillian’s social worker at Children’s Hospital of Michigan asked Sensei Michael to visit Jillian and tell her about the Kids Kicking Cancer program. Sensei Michael used a pinwheel to illustrate power breathing for Jillian and explained to her that she was not alone. Sensei Michael himself was a survivor of Rhabdomyosarcoma and could relate to what she was going through.
A turning point for Jillian was when Sensei Michael introduced her to Haley, another student in the program. Jillian’s family said it was the first day they saw her smile again. The girls started playing and Jillian took off her hat for the first time. Haley encouraged Jillian to come to Kids Kicking Cancer classes and events.
In class, she met her friend Lexi who taught Jillian how to use her power breathing during finger pokes. The weekly classes helped Jillian regain her energy, strength, and self-confidence. Attending Kids Kicking Cancer class, whenever she was not in the hospital, became a priority for Jillian and her family. Jillian’s family was amazed that she could safely participate in the martial art therapy with both a port and a g-tube. Kids Kicking Cancer class was the one thing Jillian could do during her treatment for cancer. The classes were a safe haven for Jillian – the other kids never judged her when she didn’t have any hair. Jillian, who used to scream before getting shots, now used her power breathing every time her nurses accessed her port, to get her daily shots, and when she had to take bad tasting medicine.
Jillian’s family has told us that everyone in the Kids Kicking Cancer program is so kind and helpful – like a family. The Martial Arts Therapists are so good at working with the kids. Her family was also grateful that other parents shared advice for going through the cancer journey. Her family says that everyone helps each other out.
Now it’s Jillian’s turn to help other children going through cancer treatments. She has already started teaching through martial arts demonstrations, television segments, and sharing during class. Kids Kicking Cancer is a “positive constant” that Jillian and her family continue to benefit from tremendously.