Rising Above Childhood Cancer to Care for Others

laura sealy
DNP graduate and pediatric cancer survivor Laura Sealy with a pediatric patient at Texas Children’s Hospital, where Sealy works as a nurse practitioner.

One night in 1995, Jody and Marcus Sealy prayed as they took their 4-year-old daughter, Laura, to Wolfson Children’s Hospital in Jacksonville. They prayed what Laura had been experiencing lately could be diagnosed as some normal, easily treatable childhood illness. But that fateful night, their world turned completely upside-down. Laura was diagnosed with acute lymphoid leukemia and would spend the following two-and-a-half years receiving treatment, staying in hospitals and visiting clinics.

What would normally be considered a devastating experience has a silver lining in this story. Laura recovered, and it was through her treatment process that she knew in her heart that she wanted to be a nurse and help children like her.

“I can remember so many things from that time period, things I was expected to forget since I was only 4, but I don’t want to forget,” Sealy said. “Above all the clinical events, I remember the people who took care of me. The doctors, nurses and child life specialist all inspired me to want to pursue a career in pediatric oncology.”

laura sealy
Laura Sealy reuniting with a nurse from Wolfsons Childrens Hospital who cared for her as a pediatric patient.

When it came time to apply for colleges, her heart was set on UF, and it was the only university she applied. Sealy completed the BSN program in 2013 and continued at the College of Nursing through the DNP program. While completing the DNP, she worked as a nurse on the hematology/oncology unit at Wolfson Children’s Hospital, where she was treated as a child. She even had the opportunity to work with some of the nurses who cared for her all those years ago.

“I used to say I wanted to be a nurse as a way to ‘pay it back’ because I felt like I owed it them. As I got older, I realized that the goal of health care providers is not to convince people to be like you but to help them heal so that they can reach their full potential of being whoever they are meant to be. Still, I chose pediatric oncology nursing.”

Following graduation from the DNP program in 2016, Sealy was selected for a pediatric hematology/oncology nurse practitioner fellowship program at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston and has been a nurse practitioner on the leukemia team there for three years.

“My family and I are at peace with what happened, and I want other patients and families that are facing cancer to know that it is possible to one day look back and genuinely be grateful for the experience. Cancer can dictate many things, but it can’t control your perspective.”

laura sealy
Laura Sealy during treatments in 1995.

With Gator Nursing’s strong tradition of excellence and as one of six colleges within the UF academic health center, one of the most comprehensive academic health care centers in the southeast, Sealy is happy with her choice to earn a DNP from the UF College of Nursing. Being a nurse practitioner and caring for children who were just like her has been a huge part of the journey, and she said she owes it all to the education she received.

“The College of Nursing at the University of Florida helped me achieve my goals and encouraged and enabled me to go beyond what I ever imagined for myself. The education and support I received as a student is truly unmatched, and I can’t imagine being part of any other program. The DNP program gave me the skills and experiences I needed to be a successful nurse practitioner and be the best I can be for my patients.”