Idon Mualim - Give back to the community
On September 18, 2003, I was diagnoses with Leukemia, I was only 4 years old. That week, I was the “Star of the Week” at my preschool, but my mom took me out of school early one day because she found 2 lumps on my neck. She promised she would bring me back to school the next day, but instead, I was admitted into Rady’s Children’s Hospital in San Diego, CA and never walked back into the classroom again.
A 2 day stay always turned into a 2 week stay, and if I was lucky, I would get to go home for maybe a few days before I ended up back in the hospital. My family, community and hospital staff made the hospital feel like home. Each time we “check-in”, my room got transformed into a bedroom with posters, balloons and photos of friends, I even got to bring my quilt from my bed.
I am lucky enough to have good memories, but it wasn’t all good times. There were scary moments too. One evening in March 2004, my best friend and his family were visiting, and I started screaming and crying in pain. My chest was hurting so badly. I ended up developing blood clots in my lungs and one in my heart (which is still there today). For the next 6 weeks, they injected me with blood thinners twice a day, and by the end, my stomach looked as though I was in a boxing match with all those bruises. Thankfully, things continued getting better after that. I spent over 10 weeks in the hospital that time and even had my 5th birthday party there. My parents even made sure that we celebrated big, by having a party in the hospital garden with my friends, family, and hospital staff.
That first year was the toughest, but luckily it got better, and by the 2nd year, I was sleeping in my own bed, and in November 2005, I finished my treatment. It is crazy to think that in November, I will be 16 years in remission. It feels like a lifetime ago.
Although I am 21 years old and living in Toronto, each summer, I go back home to San Diego and Rady’s Children’s hospital for my annual and see the doctors, nurses and staff who helped me through it. I was very lucky, I survived, but there are many families that unfortunately loose the battle. Out of our group of friends that we made in the hospital, I was the only one who survived. I sometimes wonder how things would have been different if I didn’t get cancer, but I do know that it’s what made me who I am today. Every day I am thankful to be alive, and my experience surviving cancer has led me to my life’s purpose of giving back for those children who did not survive this horrible disease. I am currently finishing my undergraduate degree at the University of Toronto in Human Biology and Bioethics. My goal is to become a Pediatric Oncologist to give back to the community that gave so much to me and my family.