When I Grow Up: Angela Myers' battle with cancer fueled her journey to become a doctor

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Photo credit Angela Myers/Childrens Mercy

Kansas City, MO - Angela Myers is the Division Director of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at Children's Mercy Hospital. Her journey to becoming a doctor started when she was in the sixth grade. Myers always knew two things: she loved science, and she loved taking care of kids. From the beginning Myers was driven to reach her goal, but she never imagined the setbacks that would come her way. 

The week before Myers' junior year in high school, she was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, also known as bone cancer. She spent a year at Children's Mercy undergoing chemotherapy.  

"It was rough, it was awful," says Myers, "I missed the first week of school because I was having chemo. That put an end to my sports career. I was a cheerleader. I was the co-captain of my JV cheerleading squad. I was a swimmer, and that was that."

Regardless of the setbacks, Myers worked even harder to do well in school and to graduate on time with her class. She says even though she'd known she wanted to be a doctor, having bone cancer solidified it. 

"I always kept the goal in mind. If I wanted to graduate with my class, I had to finish X amount of classes this year and X amount of classes next year to do that, and nobody else but me was going to make that happen," explains Myers. 

Myers applied and was accepted to the six-year medical school program at the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Medicine, but it wasn't the end of the challenges she would face. In her first three years of college, she had a reoccurrence of the cancer, leading to three lung surgeries. Each time she just focused on what she had to do to finish out that semester, to stay with her class, and to get through it. She says it was easy to get overwhelmed with the goal.

"I think the trick really is being incredibly stubborn, never taking no for an answer, and really breaking the problem down," explains Myers.

Though she thought she wanted to work with pediatric cancer, her goal shifted along the way to pediatric infectious diseases, where she could work with patients throughout the hospital, creating a broader opportunity. She felt it was a better fit, but struggled with the decision. 

"I came to the realization that I needed to do what was going to make me happy, not what I thought I was supposed to do," says Myers.

After all she's been through, being on the other side of illness, Myers feels she's able to understand the pain and suffering that kids go through when they're sick, and she's able to give advise from experience. Myers feels she can also empathize with what the parents are going through as well. 

There's a lot about being a doctor that Myers loves, but what makes all the hard work worth it is seeing kids get better. Myers says she loves being a part of something great.

She says your whole life is about continuous improvement, and becoming what you want to be. "We should never say, we've achieved it and we're done. We should always be working toward it."

The key to achieving a goal, explains Myers, is to look at one piece at a time, celebrate it, and then immediately look ahead to the next one until you've accomplished what you set out to do. "The days are long and the years are short," says Myers. "When you look back at it after it's over, you think of the pride and the happiness that you accomplished something.