Ep. 11: Arvinder's Fight Story

The childhood cancer journey is never easy. Thankfully, POGO's Interlink nurses, like Arvinder Aulakh, are there for patients and their families during this process, helping them navigate every step of the journey. 
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We are honoured to welcome Arvinder Aulakh to Fight Club, sharing insights from her career as a pediatric oncology nurse and more recently, her role as a POGO Interlink Nurse. 
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Arvinder always knew she wanted to work with children. She also had an interest in medicine. Nursing was the perfect pursuit. 
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While becoming a nurse, Arvinder landed a job at Sick Kids as a clerk in the Oncology ward. Instantly, she knew this was the field for her. While in nursing school, she continued to work in both the bone marrow and oncology wards, developing strong relationships in this community. 
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Now, 18 years later, Arvinder is still a pediatric oncology nurse working at Sick Kids. More recently, however, Arvinder also joined POGO's team. In November 2020, Arvinder joined POGO as part of their Interlink nurse team, helping children diagnosed with cancer and their families throughout their entire cancer trajectory.
Arvinder is one of 11 Interlink nurses in Ontario. Each nurse covers a different region, bringing precious support to children and their families affected by cancer. These nurses are there for patients from diagnosis to treatment and, hopefully, to cure. They are also there for the unfortunate relapses and sometimes palliation. They are there to support families through education, connecting them with their community and financial resources, and they are, of course, pillars of strength.
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When Arvinder joined the POGO team, her traditional nursing role pivoted. She began seeing her patients in a new light and perspective and in their own space - at home, at school, or within their community. She never appreciated this aspect of cancer care until she saw it firsthand. 
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Additionally, Arvinder started supporting the entire family in ways she had never done. For the first time, she witnessed cancer's impact on the whole family. This presented an entirely new challenge for her as a nurse: how can she help support these siblings and extended family members of all ages and backgrounds.
Arvinder's role as an Interlink nurse has been incredibly unique, however.  As a South Asian woman serving the Peel-Halton region - a strong South Asian community - Arvinder has been a huge linguistic and cultural asset for many families affected by childhood cancer. 
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Many of the families Arvinder works with are either new immigrants, or English is their second language. So, Arvinder helps these families navigate this challenging part of their journey. Specifically, Arvinder speaks Punjabi and can also understand, but not necessarily speak, Hindi or Urdu. 
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It has been a huge privilege for Arvinder to serve these families. She can successfuly communicate information to them with regards to their child's treatment, school and community supports, and whatever other educational information they may need.
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Arvinder is able to empower these families through this knowledge. She gives these families a true understanding of what is going on with their child and their care, regardless of whether English is their first language. She enables them to ask the proper questions because they have the proper information. Undoubtedly, this has made Arvinder's career much more fulfilling. 
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As a nurse, Arvinder finds great happiness in watching her patients become cured and going on to live out the rest of their lives. The ability to help carry them through this journey from beginning to end, and beyond, is by far the most rewarding part of her career. 
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On the contrary, watching the death of a child will always be the hardest part of Arvinder's career. No matter what, this will always be hard. You always wish the outcome was different. In this situation, all you can do is be there to support these families as a nurse. 
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The work Arvinder does is unparalleled. We are incredibly grateful for all she does for the childhood cancer community. We are grateful for the opportunity to share Arvinder's story, highlighting the important role nurses play in the childhood cancer journey. 
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Do not forget to sign up for POGO's quarterly newsletter here for more inspiring stories. 
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Arvinder's Story on Apple Podcasts 
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Arvinder's Story on Spotify 

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