UAE: Aspiring boxer beats cancer after doctors remove 50 tumours from his stomach

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Abu Dhabi - He had been living with severe back pain for months that he initially thought was caused by playing sports at school.

By Wam

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Published: Sun 8 Aug 2021, 5:31 PM

In the first big fight of his life, a young aspiring boxer from India beat a rare, aggressive cancer — with the help of Abu Dhabi specialists who took out over 50 tumours from his abdomen.

Rakshith Doreswamygowda was just 17-years-old when he was diagnosed with a form abdominal cancer, according to a Press release issued by the hospital on Sunday.

He had been living with severe back pain for months that he initially thought was caused by playing sports at school.

After ignoring the pain to focus on his final exams, he finally visited a local clinic where doctors prescribed him painkillers. Seeing no improvement over the next few months, he finally visited a hospital in Bengaluru, where tests revealed he was suffering from desmoplastic small round cell tumours (DSRCT). Given the complexity of his case, doctors told Rakshith they couldn’t treat him.

“My heart broke with the news of my diagnosis and lack of treatment options. All my dreams of becoming a boxer and going to college were in ruins. I’m the only son of my parents who have sacrificed so much to give me the best possible chance in life. I didn’t want to give up because I am my family’s hope and I have so much I want to do. I searched online and found a doctor in the US who is an expert in this type of cancer and wrote to her for help,” Rakshith said.

Dr Andrea Hayes-Jordan, a paediatric surgical oncologist at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, replied to Rakshith, suggesting he begins chemotherapy in India before travelling to the US for surgery.

Then came another disheartening news for the teenager: His US visa application was rejected.

Dr Hayes-Jordan then referred him to Dr Yasir Akmal, a surgical oncologist at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi.

“When Rakshith came to Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, he had already been through so much trying to get to the right place to have surgery. He’s a fighter and that spirit really carried him through his care and led to a great outcome,” Dr Akmal said.

Together with his uncle, Rakshith luckily got seats on one of the last UAE-bound planes from India, before the flights were suspended. He arrived at CCAD in March this year.

“From that moment on, I knew I was in safe hands,” Rakshith said.

More than two years after being diagnosed, Rakshith’s surgery took place on May 10, 2021, his 20th birthday.

A team of surgeons worked for more than sixteen hours, removing more than 50 tumours from his abdomen, including two particularly large and complex growths around his pancreas and in his pelvic region next to his bladder and rectum.

After removing all the visible tumours, the team used a single dose of heated chemotherapy drugs delivered directly to his abdomen to destroy any cancer cells that remained.

“Rakshith’s surgery was very complex and took a multidisciplinary team including a urologist, colorectal surgeon and even a transplant surgeon to ensure that everything went smoothly....I’m pleased to say that we were able to work together to make sure we removed all his tumours and avoided any lasting damage, enabling him to live a normal life post-surgery,” Dr Akmal said.

Now, Rakshith is looking forward to getting back into the boxing ring. He has returned to India, where he continues to receive follow-up care from local doctors.

Once fully recovered, he plans to attend college to study microbiology and pursue his dream of becoming a boxer.

“My cancer taught me so many life lessons. I endured a lot of pain over the last three years and I am so grateful to Dr Akmal and the whole team who treated me with such kindness while I was in Abu Dhabi...Dr Akmal gave me a pair of boxing gloves which are very special for me. I hope to repay the gift of life he has given me one day. I want to box to prove to society that even having had cancer, I can come back stronger,” Rakshith said.

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