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Mom of toddler counts on friends for Christmas cheer

Mom of toddler counts on friends for Christmas cheer

With family living miles away, this young mother is counting on her friends to help her through the holidays in the hospital.

By IU Health Senior Journalist, TJ Banes,

Her hospital room is filled with greeting cards and encouraging notes. Her door is covered in red holiday wrapping paper, and in the corner of her room at IU Health Simon Cancer Center is a miniature Christmas tree.

A few toys are scattered beneath the tree - anticipating the busy hands of a toddler. In the opposite corner, Music Therapist, Adam Perry softly strums a guitar melody.

The scene is unlike a traditional holiday greeting card, but it is Tiffany Tran’s reality. At the age of 30, this wife and mother spent weeks in the hospital for treatment of Acute Myeloid Leukemia, (AML). The cancer starts in the blood-forming cells of the bone marrow and is typically treated with chemotherapy and stem cell transplants.

Tran was diagnosed in October and is in the care of IU Health Dr. Seyed Hamid Sayar. Until now, Tran has been in great health and has worked as an ICU nurse for six years.

“It’s definitely been interesting being the patient rather than the caregiver. It gives you a whole new perspective of what a patient goes through and how important it is to have your friends and family around you,” said Tran.

Born and raised in Honolulu, Hawaii, Tran came to Indiana to attend college at DePauw University. She initially worked as an EMT and then worked at a restaurant where she met her husband, Andrew Jennings.

“I realized I missed the hustle and bustle of patient care so I became a nurse,” said Tran. She is also pursuing her Nurse Practitioner degree.

She and Jennings were married in Garfield Park Conservatory and now have one son, Emerson, 16-months-old. With parents in Hawaii and sisters in Oregon and Maryland, Tran said she’s relied on extended family, friends, and co-workers for support. Jennings remained at the hospital since her diagnosis.

Man conducting music therapy in hospital

Tran also looked to Music Therapy to help her pass the time and get though the toughest days.

On some days she joined in with her ukulele. She also plays piano and violin.

Music therapy is offered through the CompleteLife Program at IU Health Simon Cancer Center. In addition to music, patients may also receive, massage, yoga, and art therapy, along with access to support groups and general education resources.

“I find music therapy is very calming especially on the days I’m not feeling well it helps distract me from pain,” said Tran, whose musical taste spans the Beatles, Red Hot Chili Peppers and anything classic. “On days I’m feeling well, it makes me happy because it’s a media I’m very fond of.”

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