Tribute to Kimi
Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia. These are serious words especially when they refer to children. This type of Leukaemia is the most common in paediatric cancers, making up around 30% of them.
Dr. Luis Madero, Chief of the Pediatric Onco-hematology Department in Niño Jesús Hospital in Madrid explains: "The treatment of this disease is one of the most relevant issues in modern oncology, as in 50 years, it has changed from being a fatal disease to having a healing rate of 80%. The development of new therapeutic protocols with drug adjustments, the systematic detection of the minimum residual disease in certain cut-offs and the use of allogenic transplants from hematopoietic progenitors in some cases, have been the key to achieving these survival rates in children that suffer from this disease".
Dr. Luis Madero, Chief of the Pediatric Onco-hematology Department in Niño Jesús Hospital in Madrid
Likewise, Prof. Günter Henze, member of the Scientific Committee of the Josep Carreras Foundation in Germany and a Haematologist in the Clinic Virchow of the Charité in Berlin, says: "despite this high healing rate, nowadays many children and young people suffer a relapse every year. Using specific and very precise methods we try to identify the risk of a relapse as soon as possible, so we can organize the type of treatment in each case. Nowadays we know chemotherapy is enough in patients with a low rate of relapse, so it is possible to avoid the risk and aggressiveness of a bone marrow transplant".
Prof. Günter Henze, member of the Scientific Committee of the Josep Carreras Foundation in Germany and a Haematologist in the Clinic Virchow of the Charité in Berlin
As Dr. Madero and Dr. Henze say, scientific research is the reason for the many advances achieved in this an others hematological malignancies. In this sense, Josep Carreras Foundation considers it a priority to continue investigating and is planning a Research Institute focused only in hematological malignancies which will be located in Spain with an international projection. Acute Leukaemias will be, among others, a focus of the research in the Institute.
We think research is the way for patients, both adults and children, to overcome the disease. For example, as Kimi a German patient who was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia when she was only 13. Unfortunately, she did not overcome her personal battle.
"Hello, I am Kimi, I am 13 years old and I have been diagnosed with leukaemia." These are the words that Kimi used to start telling the story of her illness. It was an illness which came unexpectedly and put her life at risk at such a young age.
When Kimi got a cold in winter 2009 nothing indicated it was going to be something serious. "A cold at this time of the year is very common in children", her parents thought. But days after the infection disappeared, Kimi was still feeling tired and exhausted, she was not hungry and she was very pale. Really worried, his father took her to the Pediatrician. The blood test she got gave alarming results and she was immediately admitted to the Children's Clinic of Konstanz (Germany) for a bone marrow aspiration. The terrible diagnose didn't take long: Acute Lymphatic Leukaemia.
"The day when a doctor came into the room and told me I had Leukaemia my world and my parents' world fell apart. It was really horrible. Two days later I was taking in the ambulance to the Clinic of Tubinga".
The following months were really hard also because Kimi's friends were 150 kilometers from her house. In the weeks she was with the chemotherapy she suffered strong side effects and constant vomiting and she lost more than fourteen kilograms in little time. Only a few days after starting the treatment she also lost her long dark hair.
Kimi, in the hospital
When she finally finished with the aggressive cycles of chemotherapy and she thought the worse part had already finished, Kimi and her family suffered a new severe blow: at the end of March and, as a consequence of the strong drugs, Kimi suffered from an apoplexy attack and also from a dangerous brain hemorrhage. After several days, which felt like an eternity for them, parents and doctors fought for Kimi's life. She faced up to this serious setback with an incredible strength and little by little, she fought for life, and she achieved it.
At the end of May the moment came: Kimi could leave the Children's Oncology Unit at the University Clinic of Tubinga and continue with the treatment as an out-patient in her own town.
"I enjoy every day I spend in freedom without treatment or hospitals. I thank all the doctors that worked really hard to treat me. I also thank Mr. Carreras for his work in the Foundation, which gives new hope to children like me that have Leukemia", said Kimi.
Josep Carreras, talking about Kimi's testimony during the last José Carreras in Germany, in 2010
Sadly, Kimi did not overcome her fight against the disease but she fought like a champion.