'I was getting tired much faster and was also losing weight,' says Iris. 'After a check-up with the family doctor, it turned out that things weren't right. They discovered acute lymphoblastic leukemia and I was admitted to Sophia Children's Hospital in Rotterdam. What leukemia meant exactly? I had no idea. I thought it was Pfeiffer.
A difficult period followed. Especially when Iris 'no longer belonged to the children's department' and entered puberty. 'I was in a phase of changing schools and meeting new friends. That's quite difficult with that diagnosis added. But also the tests to see if you are fertile. Something you are not concerned with at a young age, but now suddenly it is very important. What I noticed was that I had to figure everything out myself.
Around the age of eighteen, when I was struggling a lot, I contacted Dr. van Noesel. I emailed him asking where I should go to find out about these things, and that I didn't know where I stood. Coincidentally, I found this email just this week. He responded that one central LATER outpatient clinic would be opening soon, at the Princess Máxima Center.'
'The LATER outpatient clinic at the Máxima Center is a separate section, away from the care side. That itself is already great for me, because it's still confronting to see sick children. For the first time I had the feeling that I was not alone. On the one hand you contribute to science here, and on the other hand I can always come here if something is wrong. In the LATER outpatient clinic they think along about what can be done better and how they can support us. It's not only medical, but also concerns work and school, for example. People here really do their best to invest in us as a patient group and I find that very special.
Next week I will graduate. I studied medicine, an eight-year course. That, while I actually wanted to be an interior designer. The nurses always said ‘You'll be a doctor," but at that time I didn't want to think about working in hospitals. I was already in the hospital enough. Later on I got the itch. Were they right after all? I decided to visit an open day and was immediately hooked. How wonderful it would be if, after all the chemotherapy, I could become a doctor and give something back, I thought. And I succeeded.
After the summer I will start as a ward doctor in the emergency room of the Reinier de Graaf Gasthuis in Delft. Something I really want to do. It was also an emotional moment for my parents. They have had so much care and grief when I was sick. The fact that they can now see me graduate as a basic doctor means a lot to them.
Once every three years I visit the LATER outpatient clinic in the Máxima Center again. They will make an echo of my heart, take blood and we will talk about how my life is like then. A very nice idea.'