Family grateful that nationally recognized children’s hospital is so close to home

Melissa Varner
March 25, 2023
Members of the Volousky family smiling on a beach.
From left, Ryan, Cadence, Eliza Cate and Zach Volousky.

“Pickle” started as a silly nickname. It took on a new meaning when Eliza Cate Volousky started craving anything pickled during chemotherapy. Her favorite? Pickled okra. 

“She would go through numerous jars a day,” said “Pickle’s” dad, Zach Volousky. Food cravings can be a side effect of treatment for acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Eliza Cate was diagnosed on Jan. 7, 2020, just before her fourth birthday. 

Eliza Cate with chemotherapy port Since then, she’s endured more than 800 days of chemo and several long stays at MUSC because the side effects made her so sick. 

Eliza Cate spent at least two birthdays and multiple holidays at the MUSC Shawn Jenkins Children's Hospital & Pearl Tourville Women’s Pavilion. Even when they were at home on James Island, celebrations could abruptly end in a trip to the emergency room if Eliza Cate spiked a fever.

“Cancer doesn’t care whether it's your birthday,” Zach said. “It doesn't matter if it's Easter, Thanksgiving or Christmas.”

That’s just one reason why Zach and his wife Cadence are grateful the No. 1 children’s hospital in South Carolina is so close to home. Another big reason: The children’s cancer program at MUSC is nationally recognized for its outcomes and for its care team.

“We say it every day – how fortunate we are to have MUSC essentially right in our backyard,” Zach said.

Eliza Cate was one of the first patients to stay at the children’s hospital when it opened in February 2020. The state-of-the-art hospital was made possible by the generosity of the community, which helped raise more than $120 million to build it.

The top floor – where the Volouskys have spent so much time – was chosen as the cancer floor so that children who have the longest stays could have the best views of the beautiful skyline and surrounding waterways.

“I tell people when you walk onto the 10th floor, it almost feels like you're walking into a resort, which it should,” Zach said. “It should feel like that. These kids deserve to have a place where they feel comfortable.”

A young girl in pink gingham pajamas sits up in a hospital bed. She has a gold crown on and a message board that reads: Hip Hip Hooray. It’s my last lumbar puncture and IV chemo day. 1-26.

It’s been just over a year since Eliza Cate’s last dose of chemo. Her dad says she told all of her friends the day she had her last chemo dose and even took her port in for show and tell. And, instead of celebrating her seventh birthday in the hospital, Eliza Cate’s parents surprised her with Jersey Mike’s in the school cafeteria.

Young girl sitting in a tree smiling.

The next big milestone on their radar: The date Eliza Cate will be considered cured, in February 2025.

On March 23 and 24, the Volousky family will share their story during Radiothon, an annual fundraiser for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals like Shawn Jenkins. The family plans to support Eliza Cate’s oncologist, Jackie Kraveka, D.O., with a donation from Pickle’s People, the nonprofit they started in Eliza Cate’s honor. In addition to caring for patients, Kraveka also runs a research lab dedicated to children’s cancer.

It’s important to fund research happening at MUSC and other institutions that will lead to better treatments for children with cancer, Zach says. “My hope is that chemotherapy will be a thing of the past in the decades to come. I hope in my lifetime I see a world without chemo.”