Kim Francois, 22, was the typical young adult – working, going to the gym, eating well and travelling.
That was until she was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia four months ago.
Cancerresearchuk.org says acute lymphoblastic leukaemia is a type of blood cancer that starts from young white blood cells called lymphocytes in the bone marrow. It added that adults and children can get it, but it is most often diagnosed in younger people. Chemotherapy is the main treatment and some people need to have a stem cell transplant, it said.
Francois has shared her story on social media and has started a GoFundMe page to raise US$50,000 for a stem cell transplant.
She was diagnosed in December last year and has since been at the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex (EWMSC), Champ Fleurs.
Before her diagnosis, the Arima resident remembered she was constantly ill.
“Coming down to the end of 2020, around September, I was sick.
“I was falling sick constantly. Two weeks I’d be sick, then next two weeks, I’d be good. Then it would come back.
“My family and co-workers were really worried about me and they said, ‘You need to go to the hospital’ because I started to lose weight so drastically.
“My skin was really pale, I had light-headedness.”
Francois said she visited the Arima Health Centre where she was examined. She was told she was having pregnancy symptoms, but she knew she was not pregnant as she had taken a pregnancy test.
“They told me I was anaemic, gave me tablets and sent me home.” No blood tests were done, she added.
“Upon using the tablets, I started to feel worse.”
She saw no improvement and decided to go to the St Joseph Enhanced Health Centre on December 8 where blood tests were done immediately.
She was told her blood results were unusual. The doctor there initially thought it was Hodgkin lymphoma. She was then given a referral letter to go to the EWMSC.
However, it turned out to be acute lymphoblastic leukaemia.
Francois and her family were told of her diagnosis on December 23 last year.
“A couple of days later, I ran tests. Bone marrow aspiration and biopsies…”
Healthline.com says a bone marrow aspiration is “a procedure that involves taking a sample of the liquid part of the soft tissue inside bones.” It added that it is often performed with a bone marrow biopsy. The test is done to identify the particular disease, and it monitors the progression or treatment of a disease.
Francois spent two months at the hospital after being warded on December 8. She left in February for two weeks and then returned. She was still at the hospital up to Sunday.
She said she was basically living at the hospital and was getting all her treatment there.
As it would be for many of us, getting a cancer diagnosis has not been easy for Francois.
She has even had a hard time saying the word out loud.
“It was really hard on me. I was actually questioning the Lord at a certain point in time.
“I was like, ‘Why me?’ It was such a shocker. I was totally healthy and all of a sudden I just get diagnosed with cancer.
“Even before, when I was sick and before I knew I had cancer, people were saying, I had HIV/Aids, I throw away child and that is why I am sick.
“It was really hateful things they were saying.”
When she was diagnosed, Francois was reluctant to share her story because she felt some people did not deserve to know because of the hateful things people were saying.
But Francois has met many great people along her journey who encouraged her to share what she was going through.
She has also had a strong support system in her parents Annmarie and Kernell Francois. She said she has had two near-death experiences which also pushed her to share her story.
The first experience happened when she was receiving chemotherapy. On her third session, she fell ill from an infection in her blood.
“I couldn’t eat or walk. I was bedridden for almost three weeks and that really had a toll on my body along with all of the antibiotics I had been receiving.
“I was in so much pain. My throat was swollen to the point I could not talk.
“They gave me pain medication and I guess it had a counter-reaction to one of the antibiotics I was on at the time, and I had an out of body experience. I saw myself on the ground trying to get up but couldn’t get up.
“I prayed and started to ask God to pull me out of this. I was like, ‘This cancer is not going to beat me, and it is not bigger than me.’
“And I really fought, and I called on people who were really supportive toward me.
Her second such experience involved a blood clot in her leg which was travelling fast and it was promptly treated by Francois’ team of nurses and doctors.
She wants to raise the US$50,000 because her doctor recommended that she do a stem cell transplant if the chemotherapy does not work and her body does not go into remission.
She said this was her second time doing induction therapy. Cancer.gov says induction therapy is the first treatment given for a disease and is often part of a standard set of treatments, such as surgery followed by chemotherapy and radiation.
Francois said the first time the chemotherapy did not kill enough cancer cells.
She added this was her second time and this week is her last session. She is expected to do a lumbar puncture or spinal tap (Mayoclinic.org says during a lumbar puncture a needle is inserted between two lumbar bones (vertebrae) to remove a sample of cerebrospinal fluid). She will then be sent home.
She then has to return to the hospital to do the bone marrow aspiration again to know where she is at and to see if her body goes into remission.
“We are still trying to gather more information to see if I can go to Cuba or Colombia to do the stem cell transplant if it is necessary.”
People interested in donating can visit https://www.gofundme.com/f/helping-kim-fight-cancer?
She can also be reached at 272-3197.