Childhood cancer changes career for one Duluth mom

Updated: September 29, 2020 06:30 PM

Katie Murray knows exactly how it feels to be dealing with cancer. After all, her son, Liam, battled it for years, after a diagnosis at barely two years old.


Tuesday, he turned seven!  It meant a lunch at Bridgeman's, and a birthday party on Wednesday. "My best friend Alex is coming over," Liam shared.

He visited one of the people who worked hard to make sure he has many more birthdays, Dr. Ross Perko, pediatric oncologist for Essentia.

"When you look at him, he could be hanging out with any other seven-year-old, and you wouldn't know which one had cancer. And that's the goal," Perko said. 

Liam told us he didn't like staying in the hospital, away from his pets. His mother was with him every step of the way. And it lead to a career change for her. She had planned on pursuing social work, after she left her job at UnitedHealthcare to take care of Liam and his brother, Theo. But then, she saw the amazing work inside the pediatric oncology unit.

"I was watching the nurses care for Liam. And they made me such a big part of his care team from day one, inviting me to be a caregiver. I just knew I had to go to nursing school. That's where I needed to be," Katie shared with us

She now has her RN degree from Lake Superior College, and works in the oncology unit at Essentia, with adults. 

"It's not something I bring up, Liam's case, because I focus on their care. But I know it really impacts the care I give, and how I treat patients and their families. Because you treat the whole, and it is the family," Katie added.

Perko said she will bring that valuable experience to the bedside.

As for Liam being cancer free, he said. "We are thankful some childhood cancers have this outcome. Unfortunately, not all of them do. There's still a ton of research that needs to be done," Perko said.

He's happy to see Liam doing so well. "He can literally be anything he wants to be. And that's such a message of hope," Perko said.

September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. 

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