MY STORY | My 5-year-old beat a rare form of cancer and now she's bubbly and full of life

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Kajal Hari has been in remission for three years. (PHOTO: Supplied)
Kajal Hari has been in remission for three years. (PHOTO: Supplied)

Kajal Hari from Johannesburg was only three years old when she was diagnosed with a rare kidney cancer. Three days after her kidney was removed, she was walking up and down the paediatric ward – much to the amazement of her doctors and family. 

Now three years later, following months of intense treatment, Kajal is cancer-free. Her mother, Judy Hari, says beating cancer has changed Kajal (5). The little girl, who was once terribly shy, is now bubbly and full of life.

READ MORE | A donor is their only hope: Bloemfontein brothers with chronic kidney failure are in desperate need of a transplant

A donor is their only hope: Bloemfontein brothers with chronic kidney failure are in desperate need of a transplant

Judy wants to share her daughter’s experience to bring hope to others. This their story. 

“In late December 2017, I noticed Kajal’s urine was a bit bloody, like an orange colour. I suffer from urinary tract infections (UTIs) quite often and thought she might have the same problem. I treated her with cranberry juice, and she was fine the next day. 

kajal hari, judy hari
Kajal with her mother Judy Hari after being admitted to the hospital. (PHOTO: Supplied)

In January 2018, I noticed blood in her urine. We had gone swimming at a waterpark in Johannesburg on New Year’s Day and I thought the chlorine in the water made the UTI worse. I took her to a GP and learnt she had a UTI, but the doctor also wanted to send her for more tests.  We were referred to a paediatrician who found a huge lump on the right side of her tummy. She suspected Wilms’ tumour, a rare kidney cancer that usually affects children. Wilms’ tumour is the most common cancer of the kidneys in children, but we had never heard of this cancer and you can only imagine what went through our minds.

Kajal was admitted to Life Fourways Hospital for more tests. We were sent to an oncologist at Wits Donald Gordon Medical Centre in Johannesburg who confirmed the diagnosis. 

kajal birthday, liver failure, chemo, kidney cance
Kajal celebrating her third birthday and last day of chemo. (PHOTO: Supplied)

Kajal started eight weeks of chemo. By week six, she got extremely sick.  =She had a fever, and she didn't want to eat or drink anything. Tests later revealed her liver had stopped working after the chemo damaged it. The damaged liver caused swelling in her stomach because she couldn't pass any fluids. 

Kajal was admitted to the paediatric ICU and by the end of the week she had surprised everybody.

She was sitting up, she was eating and drinking, but she was still very sick. The oncologist told us we almost lost her that week because of her liver. Though doctors were forced to stop chemo, the treatment had worked. A scan showed the chemo had destroyed the tumour completely.  The next step was a two-hour surgery in March 2018 where doctors removed her right kidney. She was in the ICU again for a few days then she was moved to a normal ward. 

cancer free, joburg, family
Kajal got to celebrate her fifth Christmas with family. FROM TOP LEFT: Dad, Niren and grandparents. FROM BOTTOM LEFT: big brother Donovan, Judy and Kajal. (PHOTO: Supplied)

The surgery took place on a Tuesday and by the Sunday she was discharged. Test results from the hospital revealed the tumour had been destroyed. Though the cancer hadn’t spread, Kajal’s treatment included a further 27 weeks of chemo. 

She didn’t go for radiation because doctors worried about her damaged liver. Her last chemo treatment was on 28 October 2018. Then on 2 December, her CT scan revealed no sign of cancer. 

Last month another check-up revealed she’s cancer-free. 

READ MORE | This Cape Town family has hope at last after granny’s liver is a match for sick little girl

A donor is their only hope: Bloemfontein brothers with chronic kidney failure are in desperate need of a transplant

Kajal has been in remission for two years and three months. Much has changed since her diagnosis – she went from a shy toddler who didn’t want to talk to anyone to this bubbly girl that’s full of life. 

She started Grade R this year and absolutely loves it. On her first day, my husband and I dropped her at school and she was so excited she forgot to hug her dad goodbye. 

Kajal fears putting hair accessories in her hair because she worries her hair will fall out – but that’s the only negative that’s stayed with her.”

More on Wilms’ tumour

Wilms' tumour is a rare kidney cancer that primarily affects children. Also known as nephroblastoma, it's the most common cancer of the kidneys in children. Wilms' tumour most often affects children aged 3 to 4 and becomes much less common after age 5.

Symptoms include:

  • Fever 
  • Blood in urine
  • Abdominal swelling
  • Vomiting or nausea or both
  • Constipation
  • Loss of appetite 
  • Shortness of breath

Treatment usually includes surgery and chemotherapy.

Additional source: mayoclinic.org

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