Refugee Family Gives Back to LLS after Daughter Survives Leukemia
Sixteen-year-old Ethar and her family moved to the United States from Iraq in 2015. Just one year later, she was diagnosed with T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia.
“It all started when my lymph nodes began to swell and the pain became very intense,” said Ethar. “It was at this point, that I went to the emergency room with my father so we could try to make sense of what was happening to me.”
Soon after, Ethar learned she had cancer and needed to undergo treatment immediately. “I was completely shocked,” said Ethar. “My father passed out in disbelief when we heard the diagnosis — nobody in my immediate family had ever dealt with this horrible disease before.”
Ethar was sent to the Children’s Hospital where she stayed for nearly forty days without going home. It was during her hospital stay where she learned most of her English by listening to the doctors and talking to nurses that circulated through.
During her first month at the hospital, she had surgery to get her port, began intense chemotherapy and all of her hair fell out. After those long forty days, Ethar was able to go home but still needed to go back to the clinic or hospital every week to get treatment and for regular tests.
“I celebrated two of my birthdays at the hospital as well as Christmas and New Year’s Eve,” said Ethar. “But after two long years of battling cancer, I was finally declared cancer free and got my last dose of chemo on July 31, 2018!”
Today, Ethar supports her father, Ali Ibrahim, an Iraqi refugee now living in Warwick, RI, who helps other newly arrived refugees acquire critical skills for navigating the U.S. health system. Ethar and her father continue to raise funds for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society through various volunteer events and fundraising campaigns such as Students of the Year and Light The Night.