ABCs: Life Lessons from Leukemia

July 6, 2017
Topics: Riley Kid Story, Cancer (oncology)

andrea blog image
Andrea Jahnke as a child.

I was born to teach. I came from a family with lots of educators. From an early age, I would “teach” my dolls. Although I attended college at Indiana University, most of my life lessons were obtained during my times at Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health.

Although I never would have chosen to take a course in acute lymphocytic leukemia;, nevertheless, I was enrolled at age 4. The course was confusing and scary. It required five days of hospitalization, three years of chemotherapy, and frequent visits to Riley. 

As with many assigned classes, the lessons learned from leukemia have taken years of reflection to uncover. I’ve narrowed them down to the ABCs.

“A” is for attentiveness, action, and advocacy. My parents were attentive, and they knew something was wrong with me. They went into action and sought the best care possible—, Riley. Then they became advocates for me. 

“B” is for beliefs and behavior. I’m a mother now myself, and I paused when both of my children turned 4. I’ve realized my mom is my hero. She was the one every day in the trenches dealing with me, my diagnosis, and my siblings. She rose to the occasion with the belief that it was possible to go through this hard time, and she had a hope that there were better days ahead. That belief directed her behavior. She seized the day and tried to make special memories during our time at Riley. We took walks in the tunnels under the hospital, toured the gift shop, read books, played games, and did puzzles together. 

“C” is for care and compassion. The staff at Riley provided me with phenomenal care and compassion. I hope to do the same for others.

I strive to incorporate the ABCs I learned from leukemia in my parenting and my teaching. I want to provide the tools to help others in their hard times and encourage them in their journey.

My hope is that others will support Riley so that children will benefit from the world-class care of Riley while taking their assigned class. 


Andrea Jahnke

Andrea Jahnke lives with her two children in Greenwood, Ind. She teaches fourth grade in the Center Grove Community School Corporation. Andrea’s interests include supporting her children in their activities, making memories with family and friends, and exercising.

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