A 5-year-old Dubai pupil who beat Covid-19 and cancer has marked the end of her lengthy treatment for leukaemia.
Alexa Voyatjes received her final chemotherapy dose last week, more than two years after she was diagnosed with the blood cancer.
She rang a bell, donated by her family to American Hospital, to celebrate. The ritual is repeated regularly in cancer centres around the world to mark the end of treatment. The girl is now in remission.
“But I think it was just a huge sense of relief and achievement," said her mum, Karin Voyatjes, who is from South Africa.
"Alexa was really excited. It was a very overwhelming day."
She said she is looking forward to the removal of her port, which is like an artificial vein in her chest used to administer the chemotherapy.
“She is extremely happy to eventually get that removed so she can swim,” said Ms Voyatjes.
“I suppose from the age of five that is how she perceives it. No more tablets, less hospital and she can have her port removed.”
That should happen in around a month’s time, she said, once her white blood cells have had time to recover.
“She has been off chemo for a week. It’s like going cold turkey a bit. She is tired and I am assuming it’s just from the prolonged chemotherapy, and it’s probably a little bit overwhelming as well, the lead up to last week,” said Ms Voyatjes.
“The paediatric oncologist said it could take up to six months for the body to rebalance. She has been on chemotherapy since 2018. So this is the first time since then she has had no drugs.”
At the time of the diagnosis, Alexa was ill but there were no major red flags.
She had a fever from tonsillitis that week, a few bruises on her legs and a more concerning one behind her ear, which could not be explained by any injuries.
A doctor decided to run some tests, which initially suggested she was suffering from a blood clotting disorder. They later discovered her symptoms were caused by leukaemia, a blood cancer.
In August, towards the end of her treatment, she caught Covid-19. At the time it was a shock, as she did not have any symptoms but she later developed them. Her oxygen levels remained stable throughout but a chest X-ray revealed a concerning pattern in her lungs, so doctors put her on antibiotics as a precaution.
She tested positive for about six weeks, which is normal for people who are immunocompromised, but eventually beat the virus.