Childhood cancer caregiver is passionate about serving our children
When it comes to MD Anderson’s pediatric cancer patients, Tomika Gamble is the agent of fun.
As program director for pediatric support programs, Gamble handles camps, prom and other special events for some of the hospital’s youngest patients and their families.
“I like to say I’m responsible for putting smiles on the faces of many,” says Gamble.
Part of that is because of the unique aspect of the programming, which serves the entire family. For example, Gamble’s team hosts a three-party prom where patients, their caregivers and siblings can all take part in exciting activities.
“I’ve had dads run up to me after events and say, ‘Y’all are amazing,’” she says. “Sometimes the kids are in tears when they get back into their parents’ cars after camp because they enjoyed themselves so much and don’t want to leave.”
A son's childhood cancer diagnosis
The old adage, ‘If you do what you love, it doesn’t feel like work,’ rings true for Gamble.
“I probably have the most enjoyable job at MD Anderson,” she says. “My goal is to give our pediatric patients a sense of normalcy.”
Gamble knows firsthand how much that’s needed.
When her oldest son, Isaiah, was diagnosed with a rare form of lung cancer at age 3, she was pregnant with her second son.
At the time, Gamble was doing public relations for a local school district, and her husband was a coach in another local school district.
“We received so much support from our community,” she says. “Our community taught us the importance of giving, so once my son’s treatments were done, it then became: ‘How can we give back?’”
Passion and purpose come together
Gamble started a nonprofit to support children facing life-threatening medical conditions, which gave her the opportunity to work on events with MD Anderson. When she applied for and ultimately accepted a role at MD Anderson managing pediatric support programs in 2018, it was a dream come true.
“I had wanted to work at MD Anderson for a long time, but I didn’t know where I fit in,” says Gamble. “It was a blessing to watch it come full circle – my son’s cancer diagnosis and my experience in PR and special events helped me take on the responsibilities of my role and really connect with the families we serve.”
Gamble’s family also volunteers with MD Anderson’s programs. Isaiah, now 17, is a summer camp counselor at Camp Star Trails where children ages 6 to 14 can attend. They have the opportunity to begin training to be counselors starting at age 16. Isaiah has also participated in MD Anderson’s Boot Walk to End Cancer®.
“At MD Anderson, I know I’m doing the work that God placed me on this earth to do,” says Gamble. “When you find that passion and that purpose, it’s the most amazing feeling ever.”