Former childhood cancer patient training under nurse who treated her

The month of May is recognized as a time to give thanks and honor nurses. Their hard work and dedication help patients every day and often make all the difference in what can be some of the most challenging times in a person's life. 

For one new nurse at the Winship Cancer Institute of Emory, the nurses from her childhood battle with cancer inspired her so much, that she became a nurse herself. Now, she's working alongside one of the nurses who helped her.

Taylor Cooper's childhood memories are marked with different milestones than most kids. When she was 4 years old, she was diagnosed with Stage 3 Wilms Tumor, a kind of childhood kidney cancer.

"I had my kidney removed, I had chemotherapy, radiation. And I was in the hospital a lot because I also had oncology emergencies," Cooper told Good Day's Lindsay Tuman.

Her days in the hospital could be painful and scary.

"I just knew I was really sick, and it wasn't a great experience obviously, but my nurses, they were my heroes, and they just made it so much better. It could have been a lot worse than it was and my nurses got me through it for sure," Cooper said.

She was so inspired by her nurses, that she was determined to become one herself. She even graduated from high school early to get a head start.

"Ever since that age, other little kids in elementary school would be like, 'I want to be a rockstar, I want to be an astronaut,' and I was like, 'I want to be a nurse!'" she recalled.

One of the nurses who cared for her and inspired her as a child was Joy Jackson. Jackson spent 11 years working in pediatric oncology at Scottish Rite before coming over to the Winship Cancer Institute of Emory. Two months ago, she was assigned a new trainee - Taylor.

"So I was just telling Taylor that before here I did peds oncology, and so that's when she was like, 'Wait a minute, where?' And I said 'Scottish!'" she said. "Then we started putting two and two together, and I was there the same exact years."

Cooper shared childhood pictures with Jackson, who remembered her as one of her patients, and Cooper specifically remembered Jackson.

"Something particular with Joy, she knew I was scared of the way blood looked, so she said 'Here, let's get a bedsheet and color it, and we can make it look however you want, and then we can use it to cover the IV pole,'" Cooper said.

It was an unreal reunion - from patient and nurse to peer and friend.

"For Taylor to want to do oncology, and she's experienced all this and still wants to take part of it, and she said it's because of her nurses," Jackson said.

Cooper says she's learning a lot from Jackson, not just the procedural side, but also how to make sure to see patients as people, and in a job as hard as caring for cancer patients, to always find the sweet side of things.

"Joy is literally the best nurse I've ever met. She is so loving. She's just got an expertise about everything. She always knows what to do - what to say. So I'm just trying to learn as much as possible with her because she has so much wisdom," she said.

The two are grateful to be reunited to help care for others and hopefully inspire them too.

"When she showed up, it's just a reminder that I am where I am supposed to be," Jackson said.