Kirushni’s Story

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Hello! My name is Kirushni and I am 17 years old. In May 2010 when I was 12, both my family’s lives and mine turned upside down as I was diagnosed with anapaestic large cell lymphoma- a rare type of cancer of the lymphoid tissue. Never in a million years did I think I would be in a position where I had to fight for my life, but yet luckily here I am today in remission cherishing every little moment in life.

It all started off a day before a school trip to France, I started experiencing symptoms of tiredness and really bad headaches but I just thought it was something normal and blamed it on the fact that I was excited for the trip. Despite the symptoms I was experiencing, I still went on the trip thinking I would be fine and the symptoms would wear off once I was distracted on the trip. I was completely wrong because throughout the trip my symptoms got worse and my whole trip was ruined, I just didn’t feel right, so I knew something was wrong. On Friday I got home from the trip, I went to bed straight away as I was feeling extremely tired and nauseous, I thought it was because I had done a lot of activities and walking on the trip and I may had caught a cold, so I rested all weekend hoping I would soon be back to normal. All weekend I stayed in bed and barely ate anything, I also started experiencing night sweats and would wake up in the middle of the night and ask my mum to open the window, which she thought was strange as it was really cold all weekend.

I was sick all the time and could not even sit on the sofa and watch TV, my mum took me to the GP on the Monday but the doctor just thought it was just a virus even when I told him all the common symptoms of lymphoma and he prescribed me with antibiotics. My mum asked if he could do a blood test just to be on the safe side but he refused and said there is no need as I would be okay after I’d taken the course of oral antibiotics. I took them for 3 days and my symptoms were just rapidly getting worse, my mum rang the GP again telling him that I’m getting worse, so he prescribed me a different course of antibiotics over the phone, even though with a virus antibiotics should kick into your system within two days and you would start to feel better. Two weeks of going back and forth to the GP and A&E department, my mum decided to take action, she rang the GP first thing on a Monday and strongly argued about the fact he prescribed me antibiotics over the phone without assessing me or anything and she insisted that he gives me an x-ray scan. If my mum hadn’t have argued and insisted that I needed something else like an x-ray or blood test, then I don’t even think I would be here today.

I spent three weeks in the children’s ward where I was put on antibiotics through a drip and I had several scans and assessments. Doctors explained to me and my parents that they think I might have lymphoma but they are not entirely sure so they are going to send me to the Royal Marsden Hospital for further testing to actually confirm the diagnosis. Everything was just a blur to me, if I am honest I did not have a clue what lymphoma was until the doctors explained it was a type of cancer, I was scared of what was going to happen to me and I didn’t know if I was even going make it through because I was so unwell.

That night I was transferred to the Royal Marsden Hospital in Sutton in an emergency ambulance, I could hear the sirens and I was thinking to myself ‘what is actually happening to me?’ I went from my biggest worry being about fitting into my new school to being in an ambulance and wondering what on earth was happening because I felt like I was on an episode of EastEnders. I was so poorly that it hadn’t sunk in that I may have cancer; I arrived at the Royal Marsden hospital a few hours later where my breathing started to get worse. I literally didn’t have any energy at all and I just wanted to sleep but I couldn’t because I was sick constantly as my body had just started to shut itself down. The doctors did all sorts of blood tests on me that night and the next day a doctor broke the news to me and my mum that the blood test did not show any sign of cancer, part of me was happy but I was worried and confused about what was causing me to be this ill. My journey didn’t end that morning as I was transferred to St Georges Hospital in London to hopefully find out the actual cause of all my symptoms.

At St Georges Hospital I was transferred to the intensive care unit where I spent ten days on life support, during those 10 days I had a heart failure, liver failure, kidney failure and my lungs had collapsed! Lovely! Overall I spent over a month in intensive care and it was only when they found a lymph node on my neck they did a biopsy and it was confirmed I had Anaplastic large cell lymphoma.

On 10th June, four days after my 13th birthday my fight began, I started my first course of chemotherapy at the Royal Marsden hospital. Things were difficult for me as I couldn’t move due to being in bed for so long and so weak due to so many medications I was on. Soon things started to get better when I had physiotherapy and started to get stronger and walk without support. The side effects of the chemo were aggressive which included nausea, vomiting, hair loss, a sore mouth, and loss of appetite. In October 2010 I finally finished my 6 courses of chemotherapy and all my scans were clear! It was the best feeling ever to be able to say, “I beat cancer.” Soon I got back to normal life and things were going the right direction.

Unfortunately in April 2011 my cancer returned, this was the most devastating news for my family and me. My treatment this time included three high dose chemotherapy sessions and a bone marrow transplant; I was extremely lucky as my brother was 100% match to give me his stem cells. On 22nd July 2011 I had my transplant, before that I had my conditioning treatment, which included three days of high dose chemo and three days of total body radiotherapy. Bone marrow transplant was a massive challenge for me to recover from, especially because of the side effects and the complications, fortunately I have got through the rocky stages and I am here today 3 years post transplant.

I am now nearly 3 years in remission since my relapse and I am so lucky to be here today, it was the worst thing I have ever been through in my life, but it has taught me a valuable lesson to not take life for granted. I do not think I could have fought this battle without all the support from my family, friends, doctors, nurses, hospital staff and amazing charities like Teens Unite. To help other young teenagers and young people like me, I have created a blog talking about my battle, for me talking about my cancer story is turning a negative experience into positive outcome by helping others in the same situation as me (http://kirushniscancerstory.blogspot.co.uk/).  It is not easy living life as a teenage let alone having cancer, it is charities like Teens unite that help you feel reassured and happy that you are not facing this awful disease alone. Thank you Teens Unite.