Children, Real Life Stories

Two years of treatment are behind

Polina Shimolina, Talitsa

Diagnosis – Undifferentiated neuroblastoma

Meet Polina. She lives in the small Ural town of Talitsa in the Sverdlovsk region. A year ago, Polina came to Moscow for treatment of neuroblastoma which was supported by the Gift of Life Foundation. Polina needed MIBG therapy, a modern and effective method of targeted cell treatment for neuroblastoma using radioactive iodine. Such a procedure could only be carried out at one of the leading cancer clinics in Moscow, and the radioactive iodine-131 at a cost of more than £12,000 had to be delivered from Europe.

MIBG therapy has been available to patients at Russian clinics since 2014. The problem is that the required iodine-131 is not registered for use in children in Russia. Currently, with the permission of the Ministry of Health, the imported iodine-131 radioisotope medication is delivered from Germany individually for each patient in need of MIBG therapy. This is the reason for the high cost of this medication. Polina’s family would not have been able to afford such expensive treatment on their own. Elena, Polina’s mother, raises her and her two older sons alone. The father does not support them while Elena’s parents are retired, living in the village and unable to financially contribute to their granddaughter’s treatment. It is only with the generous support of the Gift of Life donors, iodine-131 for Polina was paid for in full. Polina successfully underwent the therapy and is feeling well now.

Polina was six years old when she fell ill. There were no complaints or symptoms when a regular medical check up revealed a tumour in Polina. Further examination through a CT scan confirmed the doctors’ concerns: Polina was diagnosed with abdominal neuroblastoma. Polina’s mother can’t help but remember that time with tears, as she was very scared for Polina and found it tough to go through this ordeal alone with three children.

Two years of treatment are behind them. Chemotherapy was not easy for Polina: she couldn’t eat, lost a lot of weight, and temporarily lost her hair. MIBG therapy, bone marrow transplantation, and immunotherapy went much smoother, without loss of appetite and constant fatigue. Now Polina is on maintenance therapy and regularly undergoes tests and screenings. Her test results are within normal range which is a great news.

Despite some limitations, Polina is enjoying her summer pastime: playing with dolls, doing puzzles, chatting with her friends she made during her hospital stay, coming to see her grandparents in the countryside. Due to her illness, Polina hasn’t started school yet. She learned to read and write on her own. In her childhood, her mother often read her fairy tales, and now Polina enjoys reading stories about princesses, knights, dragons, and other wonders.

Polina and her mum are massively thankful to everyone who supported them during the difficult times and helped them obtain life-saving treatment.

We wish all the donors, volunteers, and supporters of Gift of Life the best of luck. And all the children and parents going through challenging and lengthy treatments we wish to have speedy recovery!

Support children like Polina by donating to provide the most modern and effective paediatric cancer treatment.