I read somewhere that life is what happens to you when you are busy making other plans. In that case, I am truly living ‘the life’. In a few days, I was supposed to be starting my PhD in Medicine at the University of Cambridge as a Gates Cambridge Scholar. I was really, really looking forward to doing my research in virology and for the first time in my life not having to worry about finances. But it seems that I am back to square one.
About six weeks ago, one of the lymph nodes above my right collar bone swelled. My GP referred me to a radiologist to get an ultrasound who then recommended a series of tests. After getting an X-ray, CT scan, an excisional biopsy, and a PET/MRT scan, I finally received my diagnosis: stage 2 bulky nodular sclerosis Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NSHL). NSHL is a relatively rare form of blood cancer that develops in the lymphatic system. I will start my chemotherapy tomorrow which will consist of 2 cycles of escalated BEACOPP and 2 cycles of ABVD followed by radiotherapy.
Good news is that Hodgkin's lymphoma is one of the few cancers that is not only treatable but also potentially curable. Due to the aggressive nature of my cancer, I have decided to stay in Bremen and get my treatment (chemotherapy and radiation) here. Going back to Pakistan where my family resides is not really an option since this means more delay in my treatment.
Throughout this journey of my diagnosis, I am so eternally grateful to my friends and lab supervisors for their unwavering support and love. I don’t know what I would do without y’all.
I wish this whole mess came with a warning. I have no symptoms usually associated with lymphomas and my blood tests are perfect. I just woke up one day with a swollen lymph node and well, all hell broke loose. But it is what is it and I am ready to face whatever hell cancer will throw my way. My admission to Cambridge has been deferred for a year, so that’s good news. I have a lot to experience and accomplish in this lifetime: get at least one Nature publication, take a tropical vacation, and learn swimming etc. So, I am not giving up without a fight. Cancer, show me what you got!
HOW CAN YOU HELP?
It’s hard to help with the illness itself, but there are many things that help me to feel good, supported, loved or will simply put a smile on my face:
Since, the only family I have in Germany is my younger sister who just started her undergraduate studies, it would be awesome if you are willing to accompany me during chemotherapy whenever you have time since it can get quite boring in the hospital.
Send me a thought, a prayer, positive energy, and love my way.
You can send me a postcard, letter, a text or you can simply hug me! Simply holding each other is more meaningful than saying a million words.
You can cook/bake something for me. I love food but I can’t cook for the life of me. I usually get frozen food and plop it in the oven. So, homemade food will always be welcome.
In practical terms the current situation also means that I have little income. I have worked throughout my high school and college years to support myself but with chemotherapy, I cannot work much. I also lost quite a bit of my savings during the preparation of my move to UK (visa costs etc) which has now been pushed further. One of my amazing professors has offered me a temporarily research associate job that should cover my rent and insurance to some extent.
So, if you feel, if it is an option for you to give money, there is a giving page for donations. The donations will help me to cover: costs for essential living expenses including eating healthily, transportation, co-pays with the insurance, prescriptions/bills etc.
Thank you all for your friendship, for your support and any help you can send this way.
This too shall pass!
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