2017 Honored Patient: Jaela

In the best of all outcomes, a pediatric cancer diagnosis can be just a temporary roadblock in life. There may be no better proof of that  than the story of Jaela O’Brien. In 2013, her Caringbridge site painted the following picture of life for Jaela:


“Jaela was a 13 year old middle school student and very gifted and talented hockey goalie. Her love of life was living on the ice 6 days a week for hours at a time, never missing a scheduled hockey event. Jaela always gave 100% to protecting her net, supporting her team and working to shutout every opponent that she faced. In addition, Jaela is a fantastic academic performer achieving A and B honor roll each and every trimester in Middle and High School.”


Then, on May 29, 2013, Jaela was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. With the support of her family, including dad Matt, mom Katie and brother Kennan (14), she battled her way through her treatment regiment at Children’s in Minneapolis under the guidance of Dr. Joanna Perkins, Mindy Livingston and Caron Moore.


Her mom Katie also gave a special shout out to Deb L. who was one of their oncology nurses at Children’s.


“Deb was with us 1:1 a lot and didn’t miss a beat. She even took extra shifts on some of our longest days to prevent a nurse change when things were shaky.”


Now, checking in on her in 2017, we find that not much has changed for Jaela and that’s music to our ears. She’s still as active and determined as ever. In fact, she will be a senior this upcoming year at Blaine Senior High School where she has been named a captain of both her varsity hockey and tennis teams.


When asked what her special interests are the answer came back loud and clear – “HOCKEY, HOCKEY, HOCKEY!” Well, that clears that up! Her love of life was living on the ice 6 days a week for hours at a time.


Looking ahead, Jaela will continue to have check ups at Children’s in Minneapolis. Katie noted, “As a result of her chemo, she has no thyroid and will be on meds for life. She also has heightened allergies that are under a treatment plan and has improving Bone infarct in her knees.”

Described as “determined, mature and calm,” Jaela loves her alone time and space. She is undecided on what career path she wants to pursue, but is thinking about “something in the medical field to give back as so many did for her.”

As her family looks back on her cancer journey they note that “Cancer certainly changed our perspective and the important things in life are now better defined.” That’s a common reflection of other families who have shared their experience.

Finally, Katie wanted to acknowledge the great care they received at Children’s. “It was outstanding! I really can’t capture in words the care that Children’s staff provides. It is priceless beyond words.” Thanks Katie.

We’re betting the same determination that guides Jaela on the ice and court will power her through all of her endeavors in life. It will be fun to watch.

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