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“My daughter was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma on January 23rd, 2020 at the age of 15. There were no symptoms or so we thought. Looking at my daughter at that time, I saw a joyful, energetic and loving person as she usually is, up until the day she was diagnosed.

It all started on January 13th, 2020, when a lump appeared on the right side of her neck. I took her to the doctor, where a CT Scan was immediately done. The scan revealed that the cancer had metastasized through her body. Masses were found on both sides of her neck, under her right arm, around her trachea, right side of her colon and lesions on both lungs.

When we received the results, I felt as if our world was falling apart, I was not sure how to feel or think. My first question was, “What did I do wrong?” “How could this happen to my child?” “How much more time will I have with my daughter?” I couldn’t imagine how my daughter was feeling. For us, it was a roller coaster of distressing emotions but there was no time to even process anything as treatment had to begin right away.

We were immediately sent to Mt Hope for further testing, where the doctors repeated a CT scan and got the same results. I was in denial up until the day we received the results from her biopsy, with which the doctors confirmed she had stage 4 Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.

As the cancer was detected in an advanced stage, the medical team at the JBF ward began treatment right away. She did Chemotherapy for 11 months and took different medications, did blood work and PET/CT scans. Her last cycle of chemotherapy ended in January 2021 and she is now moving on to radiation therapy. The JBF Ward is now our second home.

When our journey began, we had no idea about what to expect, how my daughter would tolerate treatment and the side effects that come along with it. Not all days were great, some days felt like a nightmare. However, having the support of family, her friends, my co-workers and managers who are so supportive and understanding, her school (which continuously calls to lend its support) and the amazing doctors, nurses, and staff at JBF, are all a great help and comfort.

During this Covid-19 period, we thought there would have been setbacks or delays with treatment, however, on the paediatric ward, the treatment schedules were followed on time with no delays. I was so worried that her weakened immune system could be easily compromised during Covid-19. We took extra precautions with her interactions with others and maintained all physical distancing recommendations. There was a bright side to the Covid-19 pandemic where she was able to attend most of her classes online, even during chemo! If not, she would have missed school and all her classes.

Although my daughter is going through this difficult journey, she always remains engaged in encouraging activities with her friends and us. Yes, there are times where she would break down and hope it would all be over soon, which is expected, but she never gives up.

I must say, whatever the outcome, there is always that light which will overcome any darkness. Her dad and I always try to stay focused and remain optimistic. Through prayers, love, support and keeping a positive mind and attitude, we have managed to cope and work every day on getting better. Her treatment journey is almost over, and we intend to stay solid, knowing we CAN overcome this.

To anyone who is going through this or has their story, or even knows someone who must deal with cancer, thinking positive, and having a prayerful attitude helps overcome many obstacles. It may not happen right away, but you will eventually get there. If no one knew that my daughter had cancer, they would not be able to tell as she always has a smile on her face!”

– Submitted by Kelly Persad

We recognise all the submissions sent to [email protected] They all shared the magnitude of human courage. We selected this story of resilience, as this young 16-year-old girl battles stage 4 Hodgkin’s Lymphoma during a pandemic and continues to do so. This family and every family, we keep close in prayer.

~ Health Plus Team

CHILDHOOD CANCERS

According to the World Health Organization, “Unlike cancer in adults, most childhood cancers do not have a known cause. It begins with genetic changes in a single cell that then grows out of control.” Many studies have sought to identify the causes of childhood cancer, but very few cancers in children are caused by environmental or lifestyle factors.

Hodgkin’s Lymphoma (Hodgkin’s Disease)

Hodgkin’s Lymphoma is a cancer that affects your lymphatic system which is a part of your immune system that helps to fight infection and disease. This system includes the lymph nodes, tonsils, bone marrow, spleen, and thymus. It has been reported in infants and young children, but it is considered rare before the age of five. Most cases are in teenagers and young adults.

The most common symptom of Hodgkin lymphoma is swelling of the lymph nodes. Lymph nodes are found in the neck or above the collarbone, as well as under the arms or in the groin. They are usually painless, firm, rubbery, and movable in the surrounding tissue.

Coping with Childhood Cancer

For any family, being informed that their child is diagnosed with cancer is devastating. Adjusting to this diagnosis and finding ways to stay strong is challenging for every single person in that family. In Trinidad and Tobago, one such family, the Josephs, turned their lost battle with Childhood Cancer into a benediction for other families coping with a similar tragedy founding The Just Because Foundation (JBF).

My child has just been diagnosed with cancer. What’s next?

Finding out that your child has cancer can be devastating. There are a range of emotions you might feel including anger, disbelief, sadness. Sometimes a diagnosis can feel like a relief, especially if your child has been unwell for some time and you have been worrying about what is wrong.

Or, you might feel numb and that it isn’t real.

Everyone feels and reacts differently. There is no right or wrong way to feel. There is still much to learn about what causes or how to prevent most childhood cancers. It’s not something you or anyone has done and no one is to blame. The most effective strategy to reduce the burden of cancer in children is to focus on a prompt, correct diagnosis followed by effective therapy.