May 16, 2008
A mother learns from her son

When then 2-year-old Michael Sampson was diagnosed with a brain tumor, his mother, Jodi, thought the worst had come. But only three years after Michael was declared cancer-free — following five years of treatment at the MassGeneral Hospital for Children's (MGHfC) Pediatric Hematology-Oncology Unit under the care of Dave Ebb, MD — Jodi received news that would shock her and her family once again: She now had breast cancer.

jodi and michael"I thought that we'd already been there and done that," she says. "I couldn't believe our family was hit by cancer again." But Jodi found the strength and courage to tackle her illness after witnessing her young son's strength and spirit through his own cancer journey.

Like Michael, Jodi underwent cancer treatment at the MGH. In a twist of fate, Michael's nurse Sheila Brown, RN, had transferred to an adult unit and ended up caring for Jodi as well. "It was really comforting when I walked in to receive my first radiation treatment to see a familiar face," Jodi says. "Sheila took great care of Michael, and I trusted her. I knew that she would take care of me." In addition, Jodi's sister, Anne Macmillan, RN, works in the MGH Surgical Unit and often served as an additional support for her.

Under the care of Barbara Smith, MD, of MGH's Gillette Center for Breast Cancer, Jodi's health has dramatically improved, and she has been determined to create something positive from her and her family's experiences. To help others with cancer, she established a website at to share the information that she has learned throughout the years, including nutrition and exercise advice, networking tips and spiritual passages for encouragement. "I wanted to produce a website to let others know there is always hope," she says. "If you have faith and the right people motivating you, you can successfully go through anything life may throw your way."

Today, Jodi, who also has two teenage daughters, Jordan and Kaitlin, doesn't feel the need to ask why she and her family were dealt this hand. Instead, she is determined to take what she has learned to help others however she can.

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