When a teenager is diagnosed with cancer it is a harder pill to swallow. They are exposed to more of life and therefore their knowledge of what cancer is makes it harder for the entire family to cope. JBF talks to Anesha who beat the odds, and is now a part of the healthcare system in a very positive way.
Anesha: I was only 15 years old when I discovered a small mass on my neck. Since it did not affect me in any way (sometimes I forgot that it was even there), I carried on with my daily activities. A few months later, after realizing that it was much bigger, I went to “Dr Google” out of curiosity. There I read that swollen lymph nodes may be a sign of cancer and like any other person around that age, I immediately thought that I was going to die.
A month later, I had two swollen lymph nodes even though I was on antibiotics. After another visit to the doctor, it was found that my white blood cell count was higher than usual, I was put on more antibiotics and again, there was no change in the size of the nodes. Although the results from the CT scan tested positive, my doctors at the San Fernando General Hospital performed a biopsy, which confirmed that I had Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Knowing from the start that cancer could have been a possibility, this news sank in well for neither my family nor myself.
In order to begin chemotherapy, a few tests were done, a bone marrow aspiration and an echocardiogram, after which I was immediately warded for pericardial effusion which is excess fluid between the heart and the sac surrounding the heart, known as the pericardium.
My very first chemotherapy did not end well, within a week I started to experience side effects such as fatigue, loss of appetite, weight and hair loss. After being transferred to the JBF Ward to continue my treatment, my once thick, long hair was now thin and knotted. This was when I came to the realization that I had cancer. The last two to three sessions were unforgettable as I was admitted for low blood count and given transfusions. During this time, I suffered from extreme weakness, fatigue and mouth sores to the point where soft foods and fluids were my only option.
Although I was about to start Form five, I had to stop school. The thought of other students preparing diligently for their CXC examinations haunted me. I am indeed thankful to my teachers and principal at Saraswati Girls’ Hindu College. I’m grateful for their guidance and thoughtfulness; making the work material available to me, ensuring I was able to sit my exams.
While warded I was administered various chemotherapy drugs which sparked my interest in becoming a pharmacist who will one day be able to prepare chemotherapy for cancer patients. Despite the many trials and tribulations, I believe if it wasn’t for a cancer diagnosis, I probably wouldn’t have been a pharmacy student today.
Having my check-ups at the hospital (now every six months) gives me the most chills. Simply walking through the entrance of the paediatric hospital and along the hallway to the clinic feels as if I am that same cancer patient of nearly five years ago. That dreadful feeling of waiting for my blood test results still linger on today. Visiting Aunty Chevaughn and Uncle Noel on the JBF ward brings back so many memories forcing me to relive those moments. Throughout my treatment and even to date, I often ask myself, “Will it ever return, and what if it does and I haven’t been able to accomplish my goals in life?” Some days I look at the “normal” people around me, those who have no health issues or never had cancer and I wonder what my life will be like in the next couple of years. Will I suffer from any long-term effects that might influence my way of living? I am very thrilled to be cancer-free but, it is true that life after treatment comes with mixed emotions.
This journey was an emotional rollercoaster but, I am grateful for the lessons learned and most thankful to God and my family for having been my biggest support and for being by my side 24/7. Thankfully, my doctors detected my cancer at an early stage. As I approach my fifth-year cancer-free, I urge you to go out there and live life consciously each day (except for now – stay inside). To those fighting cancer, my prayers are with you and although this is an overwhelming time for you, my advice is to breathe and take each day at a time. There will be good and bad days but try to stay positive always, speak to someone if you have to. Most importantly pray and trust your healthcare providers. My deepest thanks to Dr Ravi Bhagaloo, Dr T Kuruvilla, Dr Yardesh Singh, the oncology staff at the San Fernando Hospital, Dr Bodkyn, Dr Lalchandani, our nurses, the JBF, teachers, friends, well-wishers and last but not least, my godparents.
JBF: Thank you for sharing your journey with us Anesha. May God continue to bless you as you acknowledge Him in all your ways.
“And now we thank you, our God, and praise your glorious name.” 1 Chronicles 29:13
Just Because Foundation