Arthur Castillos with family-1612440980494
Arthur Castillos, second from right, with his family Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: When Dubai boy Arthur Castillos, 15, found out he had cancer, he had his challenges but wasn’t worried as he knew he would pull through, surrounded by family, friends and good doctors.

That is not to say it was easy beating cancer – it wasn’t, of course. Arthur, who is from Brazil, spent the second half of 2020 in and out of hospital for treatment for Rhabdomyosarcoma, a cancer that develops in soft tissue. In Arthur’s case, it was in his left eye.

What happened?

Arthur, a Year 12 student at GEMS Metropole School, was struggling to see properly and visited a doctor. Scans revealed a tumour. “We had to take the tumour out first. It was kind of pushing my eye out so it could have gotten really bad,” Arthur said. He underwent surgery to remove the tumour. Then tests revealed he had cancer.

Arthur Castillos-1612440978324
Arthur Castillos missed Jiu-Jitsu, a form of self-defence martial arts, when he was undergoing treatment Image Credit: Supplied

“I had gone to get a cup of water and when I came back, I found my mom and dad in tears. I was pretty sure I knew what it was. But I really wasn’t too worried. My family and friends, I knew they were there to support me.”

Missing school

Arthur had to stop going to school; first because of the surgery and then because of the treatment. After a few weeks he joined online classes of his school. “Even though going online is much better than not going to school at all, it is hard not seeing your friends and teachers in person,” he said.

Arthur also missed Jiu-Jitsu, a form of self-defence martial arts. “I would be at the gym four hours a day; I would coach other kids. I really just wanted to get back to it. I kept thinking, the sooner I can get this out of the way, I can get back to Jiu-Jitsu and doing whatever else I want,” he said.

Staying away from gatherings

Arthur also had to stay away from gatherings and friends because of his lower immunity during the ordeal. He was told to keep clear of the beach, which is one of his favourite places to be. It would be around half a year until he could start reliving his normal routine again. First, there was cancer therapy to go through.

‘It was really hard on me’

Chemotherapy “was really hard on me”, Arthur said. For a certain group of medications, he would go to hospital once a week in the morning and “be hooked up to machines” until it was time for him to leave the following afternoon. After around 12 weeks, his condition improved and he would visit the hospital once a week for another set of medications and be back home the same day. He also did radiotherapy daily for a month, which he said helped him cut down his chemotherapy from an expected 48 weeks to an actual 24 weeks.

Good news

On December 23, 2020, he took his last treatment session and was checked by doctors. There was good news – he was cancer free. His eyesight is almost fully normal now too.

Arthur has recently been attending school again, actual brick-and-mortar school, which he enjoys. He hopes his story can inspire other children who have suffered from cancer.

Family and friends

“It can get pretty annoying. You can’t go the beach, you can’t meet up with friends, you can’t go to school. But as long as you have family who support you, as long as you can still have hope, you will be ok. Family and friends are really important to get you through this,” Arthur said.

‘It’s going to be fine’

“There was no doubt in my mind, it was going to work out fine. For people that do have doubts, just keep hope alive. Yes, it’s going to be hard, of course; yes, chemotherapy is going to be hard, but at the end of the day, it’s going to be fine.”