Thursday, June 26, 2008

The Story of D

It’s been a while since I’ve posted a patient story, and I’ve been working very closely with D recently, so I think I’ll share her story today. I think you’ll agree that she is truly an amazing young woman.

D has been dealing with cancer her entire life. As an infant she developed retinoblastoma, cancer of the retina (the part of your eye that detects light). Her case was extensive, involving both eyes, and she was treated with radiation. The radiation left her legally blind (though she can still see a bit, can read, and – of course – can send text messages!). It also stunted the growth of the bones around her eyes, so you can tell the moment you see her that something happened to her.


D’s life has had more than the normal amount of challenges – she grew up in the inner city, without much money and with parents who were not together. Her mother has a developmental disability and her father has had some legal difficulties. From early on, D has helped take care of her mother, so she grew up very fast and acted very grown up from a young age.

Life dealt her another challenge when, at age 10, she her cancer relapsed in her foot. She received chemotherapy, followed by an autologous bone marrow transplant (that’s when a patient gets very high doses of chemotherapy followed by an infusion of his/her own bone marrow which had previously been harvested and stored away safe from the chemotherapy). She tolerated this procedure very well, and was cancer-free for a little while.

The monster returned when she was 13. This time, her relapse was in her shoulder, chest, and jaw. She received chemotherapy, though, and had an amazing response. All of her cancer went away, and she was in remission again!

Unfortunately, when she turned 14, her cancer came back again in her shoulder. We’ve been treating this relapse since October, and things have been going very well. Her cancer is responding to the chemotherapy, and she is getting ready for her second autologous bone marrow transplant.

Through all of this, D remains one of the most cheerful, upbeat young women I have ever had the pleasure to know. She always has a smile on her face (especially when texting her friends). When we told her that her cancer was back, she didn’t cry, feel sorry for herself, or ask “Why me?” She just accepted the news and asked how we were going to treat it this time.

Even more impressive to me is how mature she is. D takes care of her sister, who has a chronic blood disorder, and her mother, who is disabled and confined to a wheelchair. In fact, D is the one who is usually pushing her mother’s chair. D reads (holding paper less than an inch from her eyes), and for most of this winter and spring D commuted BY HERSELF on the train from a nearby city to keep her clinic appointments. Through it all, D has never missed an appointment and is one of the sweetest, most optimistic patients I have.

If only the world had more people like D!

8 comments:

rlbates said...

What an amazing girl!

Anonymous said...

I dont know you, i dont know D, but this story just made me cry.I hope she is doing well.

jaime said...

It sounds like D is one of those patients I would feel like *I* should be thanking, instead of the other way around.....our patients can teach us so much, can't they?? What courage and tenacity.

Doctor David said...

D is one of the most amazing kids I've ever met! Courage and tenacity don't begin to describe her.

medical assistant said...

we should learn from her willpower and courage.........

angelina said...

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Have a nice day

Pranay said...

One of the most heart touching and positively amazing stories I've read on Blogs.... She is a heroine and an inspiration for all....

Anonymous said...

this story made me cry. may all the others in baltimore learn how to be just like her.