Lisa Muma is on a mission to raise childhood cancer awareness. From establishing Beaumont’s Long-Term Follow-Up Clinic to initiatives such as Moonbeams For Sweet Dreams, the nurse navigator is dedicated to supporting young cancer patients and their families.
By Carmen Nesbitt
Photography by Hayden Stinebaugh
Lisa Muma knew she wanted to work with children when she became a nurse in 1979. Four years later, she discovered a path she would travel for next 30 years: pediatric oncology. Now, the 62-year-old Troy resident serves as a nurse navigator for Beaumont Hospital’s Pediatric Oncology Long-Term Follow-Up Clinic in Royal Oak, a clinic she helped establish in 2008. Her job, supporting childhood cancer survivors and their families, is an “unbelievable privilege,” she says.
After completing chemotherapy, young survivors need long-term care and monitoring for “late effects.” Late effects, often due to chemotherapy, do not appear until years later and can include cardiac issues, learning disabilities, second malignancies and infertility, Muma says. Nearly one-third of cancer survivors will face a serious late effect, she adds, and Beaumont’s Long-Term Follow-Up Clinic works to prevent and treat these issues.
Muma sees patients once a year and develops a “survivorship care plan” for each child. The plan includes a five-year follow-up strategy. When a child shows late effects, the clinic takes an integrated treatment approach and works with everyone who supports the child — teachers, primary care doctors and family members — to maximize the child’s success.
But Muma’s dedication to patients and their families extends beyond her duties as a nurse navigator. In 2012, she went on a medical mission to West Africa where she treated 750 patients in three days. Oakland University’s School of Nursing recognized her as the 2016 recipient of the Nightingale Awards for Nursing Excellence in the category of Staff Nurse Practice, and Crain’s Detroit Business named her a Health Care Hero runner-up that same year.
“She’s one of a kind,” says Anne Stewart, 59, of Clinton Township, a chief nursing officer at Beaumont Hospital. “The night of the SEEN Changemaker Awards, Lisa rushed back to the hospital to be part of a Walk of Honor ceremony. She did this because she personally wanted to be there for the patient’s family.” During the Walk of Honor, nurses, doctors and staff line the hallways to show respect for end-of-life patients who are going into surgery to donate their organs.
In addition to patient care, Muma will continue her mission of raising childhood cancer awareness. “One in every 1,000 18-year-olds is a survivor of childhood cancer,” she says, adding that awareness is vital because only 4% of federally funded cancer research goes toward studying pediatric cancer. Muma has led several awareness initiatives, but Moonbeams for Sweet Dreams is particularly special to her.
Every evening in December, Beaumont invites the public to gather in the parking lot and shine flashlights up to the kids on the pediatric floor. “Some nights last year, we had over 1,000 people out, shining lights up to the children, and they shined their lights back down,” Muma says. “And it is the most heartwarming, wonderful thing to let the kids and their families know that they’re not alone during the holidays.”