“I never imagined that children could get cancer. I thought it was such a horrible disease that only adults could get it—until my six-year old daughter, Karzil, was diagnosed with cancer. It was during the summer vacations, after she had passed the exams for Prep when I noticed a swelling on Karzil’s right leg. At first, I thought she had hurt herself while playing with her older brother. However, after a week, the swelling had grown and we took her to a local hospital. Here, Karzil underwent surgery and the doctors told us she was suffering from cancer. We were advised to take her to Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital and Research Centre (SKMCH&RC), in Lahore.
A cancer diagnosis must be devastating for any parent, but this news was exceptionally difficult for us because we had already seen a loved one lose the battle with cancer. Karzil’s grandmother had passed away four years ago. At the moment of our daughter’s diagnosis, all the pain and suffering her grandmother had gone through came rushing back to haunt us. I knew it would be difficult to explain to Karzil what was happening. We had to explain to her not only that she had cancer, which her grandmother had battled with, but also that her story did not have to have the same unhappy ending. Fortunately, at SKMCH&RC, we found out that our daughter had been diagnosed at an early stage of bone cancer and therefore had a good chance of successfully fighting the disease. Karzil’s treatment plan included chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and corrective surgery on her leg, so as to enable her to walk on both her feet. Her treatment started in May, 2016. The Hospital has a child-friendly environment that greatly helped us in convincing Karzil to attend regularly for her appointments. Even before Karzil became ill, she wanted to grow up to be a doctor. The Hospital’s Schooling Programme ensured my daughter stayed in touch with her books—so that her dream was never interrupted by her illness. I truly admire the way the Hospital gives patients a reason to smile and enjoy life with the help of various patient-centric activities.
After the initial surgery, a bone was removed from Karzil’s right leg, leaving her foot limp and unable to reach the ground. Thankfully, after reconstructive surgery, Karzil can now walk on both her feet, albeit with a slight limp. Karzil loved to wear shoes with heels and after her surgery, with tears welling up in her eyes, she asked me if she would ever be able to wear heels again. I hugged her and assured her that nothing else mattered as long as she was here to light up my world with her smile, with or without high heels!
I don’t wish to hear that tone of regret in my daughter’s voice ever again. I will try my best to see that she gets the opportunity to pursue her dream of becoming a doctor. Today, Karzil has defeated cancer and is on regular follow-up. She will, Inshallah, be joining Class 2 after the summer holidays. A long academic journey awaits her but all my prayers are with Karzil. May she be a kind and cooperative doctor, easing the pain of others, just like the doctors at Shaukat Khanum Hospital.”
(Narrated by Karzil’s Mother in 2017)