When Meena first entered the King Hussein Cancer Foundation’s offices in 2010 to be interviewed for her personal story, she was immediately surrounded. None of the staff members could resist gathering around this beautiful two-year-old, nor could they hide their smiles at her beaming face and fresh energy. It was therefore all the more heartbreaking to hear that Meena’s story with cancer began when she was not even one year old.
The first sign that something was wrong was an unusual swelling in Meena’s abdomen. Despite their efforts and multiple doctors’ appointments, Meena’s parents could not determine the source or cause of the swelling. The swelling increased and was soon accompanied by unbearable pain. This is when Meena was finally referred to the King Hussein Cancer Center.
At barely one year old, Meena was diagnosed with stage IV neuroblastoma in her adrenal gland. Doctors at the Center mapped out a treatment plan for her and she was started immediately on a course of chemotherapy to reduce the size of the tumor so that doctors could operate.
The treatment costs started to add up and Meena’s parents began to worry. Would they be able to pay for the life-saving treatment their only child needed? Thankfully, the Foundation was able to help cover Meena’s treatment costs through the Iraqi Goodwill Fund, one of the many programs established by the Foundation to support patients during the difficult stages of treatment. For the first time since Meena’s symptoms appeared, her parents began to feel hope.
Meena underwent her chemotherapy on a regular basis, and this treatment was soon followed by a six hour operation to remove the tumor, which had intricately wound itself around her adrenal gland. Eventually, the surgeons had to remove Meena’s entire kidney in order to eradicate the tumor completely.
“This was one of the most difficult stages of Meena’s treatment,” says her father, remembering. “Were it not for the grace of God and the care of the doctors and nurses at the King Hussein Cancer Center, the outcome would have been very different”.
But Meena’s treatment plan was still not over. After her surgery, Meena still had to undergo a bone marrow transplant followed by four days of intense chemotherapy. Meena remained for an entire month in the bone marrow transplant department at the Center until she was recovered enough to be transferred to the pediatric ward where she had to undergo 120 radiotherapy sessions as a daily preventative measure.
The day Meena came to the Foundation’s offices marked four months since she had begun her radiotherapy. Yet despite all that she has been through, Meena remains a typical toddler who loves scribbling with markers on paper, has to taste every flavor of candy available, and will not leave the room until she is good and ready - regardless of her parents’ cajoling. Most importantly, however, she has a radiant smile that never fails to light up a room.