Iris (26) was 10 when she was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. She was in grade seven. An uncertain period followed in which she did not always feel heard. Until the LATER clinic at the Princess Máxima Center opened. She shares her personal experience.
‘I was getting tired much faster and also losing weight,’ Iris recounts. ‘After a checkup with the family doctor, it turned out that it wasn’t good. They discovered acute lymphatic leukemia and I was admitted to the Sophia Children’s Hospital. I didn’t know what leukaemia meant exactly; I had no idea. I thought it was pfeiffer.
A difficult period followed. Especially when Iris ‘no longer belonged to the pediatric ward’ and entered puberty. ‘I was in a phase where I was changing schools and meeting new friends. That’s pretty hard with that diagnosis involved. But also the tests to see if you are fertile. Something you don’t think about at a young age, but now it’s suddenly very important. What I noticed was that I had to figure everything out for myself.
Finally, around the age of eighteen, I contacted Dr. van Noesel myself. I emailed him asking where to go to find out these things, and that I didn’t know where I stood. Coincidentally, I found this email just this week. He responded that one central LATER clinic would be opening soon, at the Princess Máxima Center.
Now The LATER clinic in the Máxima is a separate section, away from the care side. That alone is very nice for me, because it remains confronting to see the sick children. For the first time I had the feeling that I was not alone. On the one hand, you contribute to science here, and on the other hand, I can always come here if there is something. In the LATER clinic, people think about what can be done better and where they can guide us. It’s not only medical but also about work and school, for example. People here really do their best to invest in us as a patient group and I find that very special.
Next week I graduate. I studied medicine, an eight-year degree. That, while I actually wanted to be an interior designer. In nursing they always said “You are going to be a doctor,” but I didn’t want to think about that. I already visited enough hospitals. Later it started to itch. Were they right? I decided to visit an open day and was immediately sold. How wonderful it would be if, after all the chemotherapy, I could become a doctor and also give something back, I thought. I succeeded.
After the vacations, I will start as a ward physician at the emergency room of the Reinier de Graaf Gasthuis in Delft. Something I want to do most of all. Also an emotional moment for my parents. They had so much care and sorrow when I was ill. That they now see me graduating as a basic doctor does them a lot.
Once every three years I visit the LATER clinic in the Máxima again. Then an ultrasound of my heart is made, blood is drawn and we talk about how things are going. A very nice idea.