Feninna-Aikaterini Fights RMC

July 20, 2020 / John Ritchie / media

Written by her Mother, Lois

Feninna lives in Volos, Greece with her parents, Marios and Lois and her younger brother, Filippos (Philip in English).  Prior to receiving the cancer diagnosis, Feninna was outgoing, friendly and very much into sports. I can see in her eyes that she is determined to beat this cancer. My girl used to be a track athlete and now she can hardly walk a few steps without being wiped out! So heart breaking, Ritchie! God help us endure this pain.

In mid February of this year, my 15-year-old daughter, Feninna began having pain in her left femur followed by a dry cough and a low fever. The doctors in our region felt that she may have contracted the COVID-19 virus and recommended her to be tested. The test was negative for COVID-19. March 17th Feninna continued to have symptoms, so we took her to a hospital in Thessaloniki, the second largest city of Greece after Athens to be evaluated. March 20, 2020, she was diagnosed with a poorly differentiated adenocarcinoma, a cancer that develops in the glandular tissues of the body. It wasn’t until the end of April that we were told that Feninna had stage 4 renal medullary carcinoma (RMC). As her mother, I felt helpless with this diagnosis, but deep inside of me, I never believed that RMC will be stronger than my girl. Hope I’ll be right!

Feninna’s first phase of treatment consisted of doxorubicin, cisplatin and taxol. After two months of treatment, her condition had impressively improved. The cancer had initially affected several parts of her body, including her bones. However, the PET scan that was done in May only showed active cancer cells in her right lung.  She is now on phase 2 chemotherapy which includes gemcitabine.  We hope for the best.

The doctors here are communicating with MD Anderson doctors; Professor Tannir and Professor Msaouel for further treatment since this may be the first case in Greece and nobody knew about it! As for Feninna, the good news of this past week is that her lung x-ray has improved and we can now be at a guesthouse offered by Parents’ Organization. It means a lot for Feninna, as she could not stand being in the hospital any more. Initially, she would smile and interact with the nurses and doctors, but now when she is in the hospital she is moody and depressed. Actually she is just tired of being in the hospital and does not interact as much with the medical staff. So once she completed the 2nd round of chemotherapy, we managed to be out!

After four months of receiving treatment and trying to remain safe due to COVID-19 pandemic, we had our first outing at a restaurant. Feninna liked it a lot…we almost forgot what it felt like to enjoy life!!! I beg God to give us the chance to have many more moments like that.

The doctors are carefully monitoring her lab results and when it is safe, she’ll start the third round of chemotherapy. Hopefully, we’ll continue with this treatment until the doctors here have further instructions from Houston as to how to move on.

At times, we felt desperate as we realize that this disease defeated many young people that are sickle cell trait carriers like us. I feel advocacy and support groups are needed here. The good thing here in Greece is that all people have access to medical care in state hospitals of course. 

Ritchie, your story has touched me so much. I first heard it from a podcast recorded interview of Professor Tannir. All RMC patients are so grateful to Chris because he actually initiated further RMC research. I wish things would have turned in a different way for Chris, but obviously everything happens for a purpose. Your prayers are so precious and we see that they take us a step closer to Feninna’s healing!!!

I really don’t know how things will go for Feninna, but I plan to set up a site informing people about RMC. The name of the organization is “Floga”, meaning “light of fire”, which is set up by the parents of children with cancer. I am also hoping to work with you and Cora to inform people here about this horrible threat!!!

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