Childhood leukemia survivor now a nurse at Sanford Fargo

Jacob Roble tends to patients at Sanford Children’s, works with nurses who once cared for him

Childhood leukemia survivor now a nurse at Sanford Fargo

Jacob Roble is one of many nursing students working at Sanford Health in Fargo, North Dakota.

But when he interacts with pediatric cancer patients, he shares a truly personal connection with them.

From patient to provider

“I was diagnosed with leukemia when I was 3 years old, and so I went through treatments as a kid. Then it reoccurred when I was 5, and then it reoccurred again when I was 10,” said Roble.

Roble was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia as a child, and was treated at Sanford Children’s before a bone marrow transplant from his father saved his life. He has been cancer-free for 14 years, and now he roams the halls on behalf of the same hospital system where he was once a patient.

“The kids that are throwing up and saying, ‘I’m sorry!’ I’m like, ‘No, it’s OK. It’s OK to feel this way. I felt this way too.’ And then they kind of look at me and I share my story with them. Some of them open their eyes and (say), ‘I’m not the only one going through this,’ which really hits home for me,” Roble said.

Lifelong bonds

On top of the connection he shares with every single patient, he also continues a lifelong journey with some of his co-workers as well. In fact his current manager, Holly Ellegard, took care of Jacob as a child, and has been a mentor to him as he began his career in nursing.

“His smile hasn’t changed. He was this little boy with this cute little smile and then his brother was always with him. Those are the things I remember. They were always a little bit mischievous and very boy-like, and we would get a little squirt with a squirt gun coming across the nurses’ station,” Ellegard said with a smile. “Then they would go back to their room and pretend they didn’t do it.”

Perhaps counterintuitively, Roble says he mostly remembers all the fun he had as a child during his stays in the hospital, and he tries to pay that forward each time he visits with a patient.

“When I look back and think about the nurses that took care of me, I try to share the same knowledge and compassion and caring that they had, and the fun that they had, and really remember it’s not what you say; it’s what you do. I remember what they did, how they had fun and took care of me, and made me feel better.”

Ellegard says nurses like her have plenty to learn from Roble, who can explain what young patients are going through better than anyone else.

“I think Jacob’s going to be life changing for the floor,” Ellegard said. “He is going to be an amazing nurse because he’s just got the best heart and he always has. That was him when he was little on up. He just was very caring and really wanted to make it a better place for everybody.”

At 24 years of age, Roble is doing just that. As a patient and now a nurse, he essentially has two decades of experience on both sides of these hallways. Now he is sharing his expertise with patients who are just like him every single day.

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Posted In Cancer, Cancer Treatments, Children's, Fargo, Sanford Stories