I was diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma when I was 10 years old. The treatment and care I received at The Royal Marsden was incredible and inspired me to go into medicine. I was so grateful to the doctors and nurses for saving my life.
When I was diagnosed, I had experienced months of symptoms. Childhood cancer is so rare that it can often take a while to get a diagnosis. When I came to The Royal Marsden, I was given chemotherapy straight away and was told I would lose my hair. I was so scared. I kept looking around at the other children further along in their treatment, thinking, 'what will happen to me?'
I came through the two-year treatment programme really well, thanks to the support of the nurses and my consultant Dr Mary Taj. Unfortunately, a few years later, I got Graves' disease, an autoimmune condition that affects the thyroid gland. I was treated with radioiodine for a couple of weeks and was not allowed to have any contact with anyone, which was really difficult. I now attend Dr Kate Newbold's thyroid clinic for regular check-ups.
For years, I have donated money to The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity, but I felt that this wasn't enough, so I explored the possibility of becoming an oncologist myself. I am working as a Associate Practitioner at The Royal Marsden's Centre for Molecular Pathology.
I believe that all of my experiences have helped make me the person I am today. I feel so proud to be working at The Royal Marsden and get such a buzz wandering along the corridors and seeing some of the porters who wheeled me around as a patient.
When we receive a paediatric sample in the laboratory, I think, 'someone was doing this for me years ago'. I am so happy that I can contribute to young patients' treatment in a small way now, and hope I will be able to do more in the future. My dream is to come back to The Royal Marsden as a paediatric oncologist and help children in the way that Dr Taj helped me.
I am so happy that I can contribute to young patients’ treatment in a small way now.
Dr Mary Taj, Consultant Paediatric Oncologist, says:
“I remember Ferhana coming into the clinic for the first time as a lively young girl. She dealt with her illness and treatment really well and followed all our advice. Even when she developed Graves' disease as a teenager, her attitude was remarkable. She always remained focused on her studies, which must have been difficult at times.
“We have a school room in the Oak Centre for Children and Young People to help patients stay on track with their studies. I do discuss exams with teenage patients as I want all my patients to reach their potential. A few have taken up careers in nursing, and another is currently at medical school. Ferhana told me a long time ago she wanted to be a doctor and I fully support her decision. If she adopts the same determination as she did with her treatment to her education, I am sure she will do very well.”