FOR UPDATE ADDED on April 18th, click on the link on front page marked "UPDATES"
We are writing to ask for help with an unexpected, but devastating problem that arose in our lives. On the first day of 2018, our graduate student Aritri, who is working to complete her doctoral degree in Biochemistry, was diagnosed with uterine leiomyosarcoma (LMS). It is an aggressive, rare type of cancer, that only develops in 1 of every 1000 women with fibroid tumors. After two surgeries to resect tumors, Aritri now faces a long and expensive treatment that requires frequent trips to Memorial Sloan-Kettering Hospital in New York City, for chemotherapy, screening and other treatments. Aritri has worked in our laboratory for 5 years, with the ultimate goal of identifying new antibiotics to fight bacterial infections. Before this news she was in the last stages of her research, and writing her Ph. D. thesis. Now she’s facing huge medical and financial obstacles.
In Aritri's words ...
“The first question that popped into my mind when I heard of this diagnosis was ‘why me?’ No one in my family ever had any history of cancer. Did I do something wrong that led to a few anomalous mutations in my cells that sent them into overdrive and malfunction? Unfortunately, cancer is now a common disease that challenges our medical knowledge, and our lives, every day. So, I could not let my own personal misfortune dampen my spirits for too long. Modern medicine gives me a lot of hope, and I’m doing my best to overcome this problem.
I came to the United States to pursue my passion for science. As a doctoral student, I research iron uptake pathways in bacteria and think about how to exploit them to discover new antibiotics. My mentors are amazingly resourceful and helpful people who encouraged me to go to the best hospital to get treated. That hospital happens to be in New York City, 1100 miles away from my home in Kansas. The travel entails back and forth trips to New York: buying flight tickets, hotels and transport for each session of chemotherapy and follow-up, as recommended by the doctors. I am hoping they’ve planned the best therapeutic drugs and treatment plan possible for me. I’m in the last lap of my graduate career, but my diagnosis put me on a troubled path at the end of five years of hard work.
My student insurance plan provides pretty good coverage, beyond my out-of-pocket minimum costs every year. Nevertheless, managing the expenses of my trips to Memorial Sloan-Kettering on my student salary is not easy. So, I accepted advice from more experienced people and agreed to open this site, despite my own reservations about asking for help. I’m not an outgoing person, especially when it comes to things like social media. Yet, at this hour I need all the blessings and good wishes that I can possibly get from all the good people around. Me and my family strongly believe that immense strength and positive energy come from people’s collective will, prayers and blessings.”
So, to summarize:
I am setting up this fund to help Aritri face the financial burden that this undesirable situation brings, particularly for someone without a permanent job and living away from her home country, India. She’s a fantastically intuitive, energetic and dedicated contributor to our research program. Indeed, much of our scientific progress over the past 5 years comes from Aritri’s hard work and inspiration. Please help her get the treatment that she absolutely needs!