After being diagnosed with leukemia at 2 years old, Myra is in remission and ready to be a cancer-free kid. 

Child Health, News | 11 months ago

Myra’s a Warrior, Fighting Cancer Every Day

After being diagnosed with leukemia at 2 years old, Myra is in remission and ready to be a cancer-free kid.

Meet your new best friend, Myra Patel. Described affectionately by her family as “a little bossy,” she’s magnetic, and at 3 years old, has overcome more than most of us will face in a lifetime. 

For Myra, pediatric leukemia didn’t look like what you picture. There was no bruising or weight loss. And no lack of energy, as she raced through the hospital hallways between tests.

That’s why, when she had hip pain, night sweats and frequent fevers, cancer wasn’t even on the radar. “It seemed like a virus. She was so healthy. She never looked like a kid with cancer,” says Myra’s dad, Pulkit. 

In an effort to rule everything out, Myra met with an Atrium Health Levine Children’s rheumatologist, orthopedist and infectious disease specialist in May of 2020. They performed a slew of tests, including a bone marrow biopsy, and landed on an unexpected diagnosis. 

“There are different types of leukemia. Myra has B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia,” explains Ashley Hinson, MD, Myra’s pediatric hematologist-oncologist at Levine Children’s Cancer & Blood Disorders, a facility of Carolinas Medical Center.

There’s no bright side when your child is diagnosed with cancer, but for the Patels, there were glimmers of hope: The cancer hadn’t spread to Myra’s spinal fluid. And Myra’s family lives a short drive to Levine Children’s Hospital in Charlotte, named one of the best for pediatric cancer care by U.S. News & World Report. “I never thought to go to any other hospital because I knew it’s one of the best children’s cancer hospitals in the United States,” says Pulkit.

And so Myra began countless blood draws, surgery to insert a port, spinal taps, a blood transfusion – and finally, chemotherapy. To help her through the tough treatments, Myra’s family and doctors explained that cancer is “monsters in her body” and medicines would help “eat” it. “She’s not old enough to know why she has to go through all of this. She just accepts it,” says Pulkit. “The teams are so caring and excellent. She never has any fear of her treatment.”

The Patels credit not just the doctors and nurses for their positive experience, but the social worker, who helped them find resources and navigate the financial aspects of treating a child with cancer. “Families in Charlotte don’t have to travel to get next-level care. Whatever would be offered anywhere in the United States can be found at Levine Children's Hospital,” says Dr. Hinson.

After a month of rigorous treatment, no leukemia was found in Myra’s bone marrow, and she entered remission. 

A true warrior, fighting cancer every day

Though Myra’s leukemia is no longer detectable, she receives maintenance treatment to make sure it stays that way and will cross the finish line next summer, just in time to start school. Fortunately, she can take most of her chemotherapy by mouth at home and gets the rest of her treatment every 12 weeks at the outpatient clinic, which the Patels describe as their “second home and second family.” 

One thing I think is critical for kids is seeing the same care team every visit. We have this opportunity to form an actual relationship with our patients and their families. We all are a big family, and I think the kids see us that way over time, too,” says Dr. Hinson. 

After all she’s been through, the Patels wouldn’t be surprised if Myra wants to be a doctor when she’s older. But for now, her days are booked – with coloring, playing outside and being a cancer-free kid. “She fights cancer every day with grace, bravery and patience, while keeping excellent energy and a smile on her face,” says Pulkit. “She’s a true warrior.”