SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — More than 10,000 kids will be diagnosed with cancer in the United States this year. It starts with a fever that won’t go away, a lump, or a loss of energy. Every day parents get the life-changing news. At Sanford Children’s Hospital, a nurse has a different perspective when it comes to caring for his young cancer patients.
Justin Stevens is a registered nurse and SDSU grad known for his superhero scrubs. Today it’s Spiderman.
He takes care of kids going through cancer treatment.
“Coming in to work at a castle every day how can you not love that,” Stevens said.
This floor with the paintings on the ceiling has been known to be the home of epic Nerf gun fights and down to the wire cart races.
Kids need the healing properties of fun and laughter. Then there are the challenging days when it’s time for chemo
“Your good days you know you are running around playing with them, you can have a good time and the bad days can be hard too but you just try and remember the good days and try and get them back to those good days,” Stevens said.
Stevens knows what they are going through because he went through it himself when he was a kid.
At 5 years old, doctors caught a tissue cancer early. In the early 2000s, he had surgery to remove the cancer and chemotherapy for a year. Stevens’ friends shaved their heads to support him.
When it comes to his time as a kid battling cancer Stevens says certain memory sticks out.
“The room where I would get the chemo I do remember spending a few nights in like the bathroom just kind of that was where I was most comfortable,” said Stevens.
Stevens doesn’t always tell the kids he’s been through much the same thing.
“Definitely one of those, feel like the right moment type of things, I don’t always bring it up, I don’t always tell everyone but sometimes if it feels like the right moment, I’ll bring it up,” Stevens said.
Today, Stevens is checking in on Cameron, who is going through chemo for a brain tumor.
Stevens says he wants to keep the focus on his patient, not his past. But there are times that common thread plays a big role, especially when helping parents.
“I’ve been there but I also, I have my mom’s perspective where when I started she said just make sure to think about where they are at because she always says they may be angry they may be upset it’s not at you it’s at the situation and that’s huge for me,” Stevens said.
Stevens knows that he can have a big impact on young lives because a nurse had a big impact on him.
“It’s kind of fun to think that eventually, I can be somebody’s Big John,” he said.
Big John worked in the oncology unit at the Mayo Clinic where Stevens was being treated. As a kid, he found a connection.
“I don’t want to say that he’s the reason I am a pediatric oncology nurse but obviously there was that in the back of my head that oh this is super cool I want to do something in the medical field,” Stevens said.
Stevens’ unique experience isn’t lost on those in charge.
“It has to be such an inspiration for families to meet him and to know oh he made it through and look at what he is doing today. And how exciting that is, and I also think he has listened to his parents and he knows firsthand how hard it was for parents to see their child, their loved one go through this,” said Carol Cressman, who is the Director of Pediatrics at Sanford.
Stevens thought about becoming a doctor, but as a nurse, he gets to spend more time with his patients.
His co-workers would agree he is just where he needs to be.
“Child’s laughter is the best sound in the world and I get to hear that most days,” Stevens said.
Stevens says the Relay for Life was a big part of his childhood and has many good memories of taking part in the annual fundraiser for cancer research