Managing Cancer and College: Advancements in technology help this 19-year-old girl win her battle with cancer and pursue her academics
Suffering from a rare form of blood cancer called Acute Pro-Myelocytic Leukaemia, 19-year-old Roopa (name changed) was able to beat all the odds and tackle life with a zest after receiving complete remission at Aster CMI Hospital. Acute Pro-Myelocytic Leukaemia is a disease which is usually seen in middle-aged people of the age group 40-50 years and is very rarely found among individuals below the age of 20. The disease is quite fatal early on and during the initial few weeks of diagnosis the risk of internal bleeding is quite high.
She presented with heavy menstrual and gum bleeding when she came to the hospital. Further investigations revealed that Roopa had abnormal blood counts and derangement of the clotting mechanism in her body. Being a young lady and having the rest of her life ahead of her, the doctors were required to think of an immediate term of curing her cancer. Aster CMI doctors then decided to give the patient a personalized treatment which not only cures her cancer but also enables her to manage her academics efficiently. She was then planned to undergo a chemotherapy – free regimen where only targeted medications were used to bring her cancer under control.
After 6 weeks of intensive monitoring, the patient’s bone marrow test was repeated showing the cancer to be in complete remission. Roopa needed 4 more months of consolidation therapy, however, this did not deter her from resuming her academic career. Today she attends college 5 days a week and comes to the hospital in the evening to continue her treatment.
It was not only a battle of life, but a battle for good quality of life as well. This youngster had the bravery to strike a balance between her will to excel in her academics and treatment sessions. Eventually, she came out victorious, being able to do both, a unique achievement. With advances in diagnosis and with a personalized approach it is possible to treat even selected blood cancers with targeted treatment and enable a good quality of life.
“Patient developed bleeding in the eyes during the initial days of treatment requiring constant support with blood transfusions. After a couple of weeks, she also developed fluid accumulation in the lungs, requiring a heavy dose of steroids. On completion of the initial phase of treatment, she was encouraged to get back to college. Since she required daily injections for alternate months, we worked out a schedule for her where she could come to the hospital in the morning, give her blood sample for testing, go to college and come late afternoon and by which time the reports were ready and she could receive the day’s treatment as per protocol. The use of targeted agents helped minimize the side effects and ensured that day to day life did not get affected,” said Dr. N Aditya Murali, Consultant, Medical and Haemato Oncology, Aster CMI Hospital.
“Even today there is a lot of fear around cancer but the disease is no longer the threat that it once used to be. Many cancers are now curable despite being in advanced stage and people can live a long and healthy life post treatment. This has been made possible by medical advancement in chemotherapy, targeted therapy, Radiotherapy, surgery and supportive care treatment. In fact cancer should no longer be a taboo as cancer survivors are now everywhere and a testament to what the right treatment first time around can do – cure people. Cancer must be looked at as any other disease and patients must approach the treatment with a positive attitude,” said Dr. Vijay Agarwal, Lead & Sr. Consultant Medical Oncology & Hematology, Aster CMI Hospital.
Narrating her battle through cancer, Roopa said: “I was shocked when the doctors told me that I had blood cancer and lost hope on continuing my academics. Amidst all the feeling of depression and helplessness in my mind and spirit, I was still determined to not end my fight with cancer. The robust support provided by friends, family and counselling from psychologists made all the difference. I would also like to thank the Aster CMI doctors for constantly motivating me to attend college and giving me a ray of hope. Initially, coming to terms with the disease, the long term implications and the treatment process was very hard for me. However, the personalized treatment provided by them assisted me balancing my academics and social life. Today, I attend classes in the morning and go for treatment to the hospital late afternoons.”