“We are so unbelievably grateful, and whatever we can do to give back is a small way to say thank you and help others going through the same thing.”
Something wasn’t right. Emma Bishopp couldn’t explain it, but she knew instinctively that her daughter, Lauren, was seriously ill. For weeks, the 4-year-old had experienced baffling symptoms like fatigue, leg pain, headaches, and a racing heartbeat.
Emma’s instinct was correct: At UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland, Lauren was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia — the most common type of pediatric cancer — which affects the blood and bone marrow.
“It felt like being stabbed with knives,” Emma says of learning the diagnosis. “To my knowledge, anyone who has cancer dies. I honestly thought we were going to lose her.”
Luckily, the nurses and doctors at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland delivered empathy and compassion along with our world-class pediatric cancer care, which consistently ranks best in Northern California.
“I’ll never forget how one nurse sat on the edge of the bed and comforted me,” Emma recalls. “She said, ‘All you can do is take one day at a time.’ That advice has always stayed with me.”
For more than two years, Lauren underwent chemotherapy that at times completely wiped out her immune system, leaving her vulnerable to infection and requiring periods of strict isolation.
Nonetheless, Lauren, now 18, has many positive memories of the hospital: shaping puffy blue foam with an art therapist, watching a child life specialist explain her condition using felt dolls, and marking milestones with Beads of Courage.
“For every round of chemo or blood draw, I would get a bead,” Lauren remembers. “Instead of being a victim, it made me feel like it was an achievement, like I was in control. I will always keep them.”
Soon after Lauren was declared cancer-free in 2007, the Bishopps transformed from patient family to advocates. The Psychology Oncology Program (POP), which helps families cope with the emotional fallout of cancer, faced budget cuts. The Bishopps galvanized a successful fundraising effort to ensure that therapy could continue; philanthropy continues to fund POP today.
For a decade, Emma and Lauren have given back through events like St. Baldrick’s, an annual fundraiser for cancer care and research. They also provide comfort directly to our patients by delivering snack packs with treats like granola bars, juice, and holiday-themed stickers so families can enjoy these small comforts when facing medical challenges.
“The hospital gave so much to us in terms of my treatment, but also emotional support,” says Lauren, who recently started her freshman year of college. “We are so unbelievably grateful, and whatever we can do to give back is a small way to say thank you and help others going through the same thing.”