Personal Tragedy Turns Into Mission to Help Kids with Pediatric Cancer
New Brunswick, NJ - Jessie Hanna can’t remember a time before his brother was diagnosed with cancer. Hanna was 9 when Sean, then 6, was diagnosed with Stage 4 Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
“My brother never wanted his disease to define him. To him, cancer was an afterthought,” says the fourth-year Robert Wood Johnson Medical School student, sitting in his childhood bedroom in the family’s Piscataway, NJ, home.
This is the room he shared with Sean, who was a Rutgers University student studying broadcast journalism when he passed away in April 2007 at age 20. The room is much as Hanna remembers it: their beds side by side, the way the two lived the short time they had together.
Hanna recently moved back home before graduating from medical school this May. He will start his residency in pediatric cancer medicine at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mt. Sinai in New York City. “I realized how fortunate and inspired I would be to work with children fighting cancer – children like Sean,” he says of his decision to pursue this field.
In addition, Hanna also started a foundation to ease the burden of families going through similar struggles.
The oldest two of the four Hanna children, Jessie and Sean played sports and rooted for the Yankees together, joined Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity at Rutgers and enjoyed the arts.
“Sean was the classic little brother – whatever I did, he followed,” Hanna says. “He went to baseball practice, acted in school plays and worked at Rutgers’ CORE radio station. He looked for ways to help others and volunteered with the rescue squad and fire department. Cancer pushed Sean to live.” Continue>
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