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Sharin Nelson, Lead Support Services Coordinator

Me and Thomas

In honor of March celebrating both Child Life Month and Women’s History Month, the Children’s Cancer Center would like to recognize the achievements of our longest serving member of Staff, Sharin Nelson.

Beginning her journey with the CCC 14 years ago in February 2000, Sharin is now the Lead Support Services Coordinator for the Center and focuses particular attention on the Oncology families we serve.

We sat down to talk with Sharin – a mother of two, a wife, and a pillar of the Children’s Cancer Center – to learn a little more about this dedicated woman, the Children’s Cancer Center, and our fascinating journey together….

CCC – Tell us how you came to work alongside families

SN – I began working at Tampa General Hospital pretty much straight out of college, as a Recreational Therapist, serving acute trauma victims, burn patients, geriatrics, and of course kids. I started to realize that working with children is where my heart lay, and achieved dual certification to additionally become a Child Life Specialist.

CCC – How can you summarize a Child Life Specialist’s role?

SN – If I were to boil it down, I would say the primary role is to make a hospital stay not so scary for the young patient. A Child Life Specialist focuses a great deal on the child, especially when there’s limited family interaction at the hospital for any number of reasons….

CCC – I understand that your connection to the Children’s Cancer Center came through your work at Tampa General?

SN – Yes. I came to know a mother of one of our patients, and she later went on to work at the Children’s Cancer Center. In February 2000 she contacted me about an open position and I joined the team shortly after.

CCC – And fourteen years later…

SN – I know! It seems like yesterday in so many ways. But then I begin to think about the families and all that we have done for so many people in that time and it makes me realize how much time has passed.

CCC – What is the most memorable aspect of those years?

SN – To me, what stands out the most are the kids who move into ‘off treatment’ and can thereby begin to move on with their lives, no longer being a cancer patient but being a teen or young adult. It’s poignant to see how their experience then influences their lives. Many of them move into the Helping Professions – medical treatment, support services, research….

CCC – It has to be rewarding to see what you do at the Children’s Cancer Center coming to fruition – a child becoming a healthy, well-adjusted adult. But in turn there must be so many challenges when dealing with such an emotive and difficult subject as childhood cancer?

SN – When a child passes – and there are times when we suffer several losses in a short period of time – it is extremely challenging for everyone at the Center. The unfairness of it, the unnatural order of life when a child passes before his or her elders, to see the grief of the family, the suffering…it’s the hardest part. But at the end of that journey, I get great comfort in knowing that we provided for and helped that family in every way we possibly could. I know that we made them feel loved and cared for and supported, and were able to provide a lot of positive memories.

CCC – Would you ever change your career?

SN – You know, after fourteen years I’ve figured out at least this: each day I want to be able to say, ‘we were able to provide a family with something valuable today, something they really needed.’ That something could be financial assistance, or pointing them toward a new resource, or something as simple as an email from us to say, ‘Hi, how are you?’ If so, then at the end of that day I can look at myself in the mirror and say, ‘I know we made today better for someone. We made today better for an entire family.’

CCC – And serving the entire family is critical….

SN – It really is. We say that when a child is diagnosed, the whole family is really diagnosed. Which means everyone is affected; everything changes for them from that moment forward. We recognize that fact and ensure that our programs are tailored to providing support to everyone in the family.

CCC – Anything you would like to add before we sign off?

SN – I truly, honestly feel blessed that these families allow me to be part of their lives, their experience and their journey. I can’t imagine any other way of life than helping people in this way.



-~ Children's Cancer Center