Saturday, Jun 15, 2013
Mind Your Body, The Straits Times
By Ng Wan Ching
SINGAPORE – Ms Rachel Chin is all grown up now and raring to get on with her life.
She will soon be starting a distance learning degree in events management with the Southern Cross University in Australia.
Looking at her now, it is hard to imagine the suffering she has had to endure since she was diagnosed with leukaemia at 3 1/2 years old.
The effects from the cancer treatment have lessened over the years but, in the beginning, they were “horrible”, she recalled.
Ms Chin, who will be turning 21 later this year, is matter-of-fact about the problems which began after her bone marrow transplant: skin rash, mouth ulcers, sore eyes and extreme sensitivity to the sun.
Ms Chin had two relapses of her cancer before she received a bone marrow transplant at the age of 12.
She missed about a year of school after the transplant, but was able to keep up academically.
Her late effects are primarily related to the cumulative chemotherapy she underwent after she was diagnosed with leukaemia and the transplant, said her physician, Dr Tan Poh Lin, senior consultant at the division of paediatric haematology-oncology at the National University Hospital.
When Ms Chin could go back to school, there would be many days she felt good enough to do so initially, but would have to turn back during the car ride there.
“My eyes would swell up and tear badly and I would not be able to see. My mum would have to take me home,” said Ms Chin.
The skin rash would erupt just as suddenly. But, by far, the worst late effect was mouth ulcers.
Ulcers would crop up inside her mouth and be so painful that she would not be able to open her mouth.
“Even air would hurt my mouth,” she said.
The effects would occur at different times.
The rashes, sore eyes, sun sensitivity and mouth ulcers are the effects of graft-versus-host disease (GVHD), in which the donor’s cells mount an attack on the recipient’s cells.