Issue 8 - Young and Bold

Narita at her convocation ceremony where she received her Degree in Interior Design

 

“Were you sad?”
“Ya.”
“But is this the end?”
“No.”


24 year old Narita Nikitina is your average young adult. She enjoys reading, cycling, and her all-time favourite hobby?  Watching movies. An avid movie buff, her eyes lit up as she told us her current favourite movie is Jurassic World.

 

Idealistic like most others her age, Narita, who graduated from the LASELLE College of the Arts two years ago, had big plans to land a job in the corporate world of interior design. It seemed as though Narita had her entire life panned out. She had multiple job interviews lined up and a graduation trip with her friends. The world was her oyster, and another exciting chapter of her life was about to unfold.

 

But little did Narita know, another chapter of her life was about to unfold, and it was not the chapter she was expecting. And this is her story.


Narita, a fighter of AML

Born in Indonesia, Narita is the eldest of two children, with a younger brother born only a year apart. Residing on an island near Batam, Narita is your typical girl-next-door who enjoys browsing through fashion magazines and keeping updated on current fashion trends.

Narita (bottom left) with her family – her mother, father, and younger brother

When it was time to choose a field of specialisation for her studies, Narita knew undoubtedly that she wanted to pursue fashion design. However, upon her mother’s advice, Narita decided to change her path and headed towards interior design, something that she found herself slowly developing a passion for.


A New Chapter

After her graduation at age 22, Narita wasted no time in building up her career. She took on freelance job opportunities, even venturing into graphic design, and adding three residential properties to her portfolio. Plans were also underway for a graduation trip, before grounding herself in the corporate world for good.

 

Narita with her friends at her convocation ceremony

 

A piece from Narita’s interior design graduation portfolio – the Museum of Art

But before that, Narita needed to get her heckling cough which had lasted for months treated. She was also looking paler by the day and small red bumps were sprouting on her legs. However, Narita didn’t think much of those, as she thought they were simply an aftermath of a wax job gone awry.


Cruel Fate

Determined to get her cough treated before her trip, she sought treatment at a couple of clinics, but the cough never got better. Finally, a blood test was done and it was that pivotal turning point that found Narita diagnosed with Acute Myelogenous Leukaemia (AML).


Family portrait

Narita’s mother was with her when the doctor broke the news, and upon hearing it, both mother and daughter broke down on the spot. It was unimaginable. There was no family history of cancer, and Narita was so young, her life had just begun – how could she have cancer? However hard the truth was to handle, Narita was forced to deal with the reality of her situation. She then embarked on a journey to find a cure and eventually wound up seeking treatment in Malaysia. But just when Narita thought she found a glimmer of hope, a wave of bad news was about to hit her.

Narita with her mother, who was with her at the point of diagnosis

A Series of Unfortunate Events

Not long after starting on treatment, Narita experienced severe abdominal pains and a persistent fever. She then decided to head to Singapore for further treatment and a scan found her to have developed an abdominal condition which required her to undergo an urgent major operation. However, the bad news didn’t end there. Narita developed post-surgery complications and her wound became infected. Furthermore, she sustained multiple infections which affected many of her vital organs.

Narita (right) with her friend before AML

The treatment process wasn’t easy, and it took its toll on Narita. She was hospitalised for prolonged periods of time and had to be placed on an intravenous drip. Her diet was restricted to liquids and during this period, she lost 16kg. There was also the hair loss that followed. But Narita didn’t mind that and she jokingly said that she once remarked to her friends how she wouldn’t mind being bald once in her life and sniggered at the heavy irony of how her wish came true.

Narita accompanied by her mother during her chemotherapy treatment

Narita found herself unwittingly forced into a waiting game – a sick cycle carousel of chemotherapy treatments over and over, till a bone marrow donor match could be found. The odds were 1 in 20,000. It felt like a ticking time-bomb as Narita only had months to live. Her brother who initially tested as a match was found physically unfit to donate his bone marrow. Narita was hit with a wave of disappointment as her life now rested in the hands of a stranger who dared and cared about making a difference.

Narita with her family who supported her during her treatment process

It was a challenging time, but Narita found support in her family and friends. Her concerned friends linked her up with like-minded people who had fought through cancer. Through their shared experiences, Narita found comfort and support. “It will be okay, and you will get better with treatment”, they all said.

Narita with Jeth, her bone marrow donor who gave her a new lease of life (Pic credit: http://www.bmdp.org)

The Lucky ONE

Call it lucky or call it fate, but Narita happened to be the ONE in 20,000 hopefuls who was found a match. She found her ray of hope in 28 year old Jeth Ng, who enrolled his name in the Bone Marrow Donation Programme (BMDP) five years ago. Narita laughed as she shared with us how Jeth initially thought it was spam when he received the notifications telling him he was a match as he only enrolled his name to help increase the database.


When Narita heard the news, she was overjoyed. Her first thought was that she would finally be able to go home to Indonesia as throughout her treatment, she had to remain in Singapore. The transplantation was carried out last May and this May, Narita finally got to meet her benefactor in the flesh, someone whom she is extremely grateful to.


Narita (third from right) with her bone marrow donor and team of medical professionals
Pic credit: http://www.channel8news.sg

 


“Most people are not aware that all it takes is a blood donation to save someone’s life. There’s a common misconception that surgery is required for the bone marrow donor when in reality, it just involves a simple four-hour blood drawing process. When I asked Jeth if it was painful, he said no, and he only felt a little soreness after”, said Narita.


Narita meeting Jeth for the first-time in the flesh (Pic credit: www.bmdp.org)


Young and Bold

Narita’s condition is currently under control and she is scheduled for another bone marrow assessment in August. A courageous young lady who has handled her fate boldly, Narita has since resumed with her daily activities and she still does what she loves most – go to the movies with her friends – at least once a week. Narita looks forward to going back to work and hopefully join an interior design company full-time soon. To others who may be in the same boat as Narita, she has this to say:


“Just don’t think too much about your condition as the more you think, the more you’ll worry. Just live your life per normal and do activities that you like to do. For me, I watch movies, a lot of movies. This experience made me realign my life’s priorities and treasure what’s most important. Before this, it was all about work. But now, all these don’t matter as much anymore. In all honesty, chemotherapy and the transplant process wasn’t that bad as it was only for a period of time. It’s easier to stay positive if you don’t remain trapped in the past. Just move on.”


*Editor’s Note: Narita’s story has garnered national coverage and she has been featured in the local news herehere and here.