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Meet Steven Saleem Pervez of Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles in Greater Los Angeles County

Today we’d like to introduce you to Steven Saleem Pervez.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Steven. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
I grew up in sunny Los Angeles County, fell in love with music and gravitated towards the sciences at large-except chemistry! I worked as a bartender for a few years while completing my undergraduate degree at Cal Poly Pomona and even ended up working a wedding once.

I was excited to hear back from Keck Graduate Institute of the prestigious Claremont Colleges and accepted my offer but was unfortunately diagnosed with stage two Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma weeks before the term started. I was told a solid-state tumor just about the size of my cell phone had wrapped itself over my heart. You really can’t script some of what life throws at you. At this crossroads, I decided if I were to go out, it would be doing what I love-learning. I missed just over a combined month of my first semester of my master’s program (MBS, Masters of Business and Science) to attend chemotherapy. As any cancer patient will tell you-you can’t readily sleep. Even if you are a calm individual, 100 mg of prednisone will ensure you at least 18 hours a day of reflecting on your current state of affairs. I kept my tribulation on a need-to-know basis until I was presented the opportunity to try out for an upcoming TEDx event through KGI.

This was a tremendously cathartic experience and I was relieved to tell my story alongside discussing a new drug from Amgen (AMG-510) that would almost positively have expedited my recovery. I discovered through my experience that I have a distinct penchant for the care of others-particularly for young adults touched by Pediatric ALL (Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia) like my friend Maggie Anahi Argueta. She is a radiant example of perseverance-Maggie knows frequent visits to the hospital to be her childhood. At only 11 years old and having previously written an article to empower other young adults herself, she is a moving testament to how this experience can build rather than break you. That being said, I want to live the rest of my life in a way that isn’t as self-glorifying anymore-I feel called to action for something greater than my individual experience. My fear is that though my battle has since ended, it may just be beginning for someone else like Miss Maggie. I can’t just ignore that. You hear all the time in academia that people want to devote their lives toward the betterment of others-but it takes an entirely new meaning once you have been on both sides of the scientific journal.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
According to Shanmuga Subbiah M.D. over at City of Hope, I recovered remarkably well. My main struggle through this process has been staying in the hospital’s chemo-floor. I felt claustrophobic like that one scene from A New Hope when the trash compactor is closing in on Luke and Leah. Though I was in the hands of a remarkable and capable staff, I felt myself longing to be with my family. Even for just under a week’s stretch at a time (for a course of several stays), you begin to miss the simple things. Coffee at home, being outside and feeling the sun on your skin. I want to leave my legacy in a way that leaves fewer individuals subject to a similar trial.

Please tell us about Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles.
I love Children’s Hospital. The degree to which I resonate with their mantra of “treat[ing] children better” cannot be understated. For that reason, I keep finding myself giving back to this firm. As a Graduate Consultant for CHLA, I know that meaningful work is a reward unto itself and that there is always something more exhilarating around the bend. I work for the Office of Technology Commercialization whose upcoming asset will almost certainly rewrite the state of preventative care. There is of course something to say about their world class treatment (after the fact). Take that a step further and think about how many cases of germ-line disease (including certain forms of cancer) won’t happen because they will be caught and eliminated before ever reaching proliferation. That’s super exciting-we can basically rewrite someone’s future by going into their past!

Any shoutouts? Who else deserves credit in this story – who has played a meaningful role?
Anyone that knows me knows that mentorship is a huge part of my life. I am at all times willing to grab a cup of coffee and listen to someone’s story-there is always a benefit to speaking with others. Finding solace and perspective by hearing those around me and writing down their words in my daily planner has given me more reassurance through this past year than I could have ever imagined. In the words of one such mentor, “spread love [and] embrace uncertainty.” – Masami Amakawa

I was sought out by someone who was diagnosed shortly after me and wanted to know what to expect. I never thought I would be in a place to coach someone else on how to deal with the cancer experience. If my story-short as it was-resonated with you for any reason, find me on LinkedIn. I would also advise staying current with the latest from both The American Cancer Society and The American Society of Clinical Oncology. I believe sincerely there is a lot of room to create a more informed society that understands common carcinogens and even how to really be there for someone who has cancer. I never understood what was meant by “keep fighting.” Like-what do I do with that advice pragmatically while I am still a patient? Now that it’s after the fact…I won’t stop fighting.

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