My name is Sumedha and I am a current high school senior in Maryland. Though I do not have peripheral neuropathy (PN) and do not know of anyone in my personal life who does, I am driven by a desire to understand and help those who are personally affected with this debilitating condition, using my research experience to do so.
I first started researching peripheral neuropathy as a sophomore in high school. Through my enrollment in Independent Research, a course that allowed me to choose any topic that I found interesting and learn about it throughout the year, I first discovered PN. More specifically, I discovered chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy, a resultant of neurotoxic chemotherapy drugs. Not only did the large number of people affected by PN surprise me but the fact that the pain could last for so long appalled me. Before learning about chemotherapy-induced PN, I had never known of the negative side effects of chemotherapy beyond the known hair loss, fatigue, and loss of appetite, more visible to the world than this internal condition. I felt compelled to continue learning about PN from then on.
A couple of weeks after I began my research into PN, I started noticing a common treatment that always came up in all of the scholarly journals and articles I was consulting: exercise. At first, I found this confusing. I wondered how could an activity so commonplace as exercising, one that I regularly did myself as a healthy individual, treat a nerve condition? But as I looked more into the treatment option, I became even more engrossed with the idea. I learned about the various mechanisms by which exercise can treat PN and became interested in exploring the potential of this novel treatment as I researched.
I was able to do so through my various summer and school year internships. Beyond my Independent Research course, I was motivated to continue my journey with PN and make an impact on the scientific community, one that introduced me to the condition in the first place. I was able to extend my research into a lab setting in Johns Hopkins University and the University of Maryland, learning more in depth about possible treatments and how symptoms present, as seen in transgenic mice. Beyond my lab experience, I also wrote a manuscript on the effect of exercise for breast cancer patients receiving taxane chemotherapy who developed PN, collaborating with Dr. Grace Kanzawa-Lee from the University of Michigan and Dr. David Mizrahi from The Daffodil Centre, The University of Sydney in the process. My manuscript was the first of its kind, as the effect of exercise on taxane-induced peripheral neuropathy was a novel field up to that point.
Why I Joined the Foundation
All of the research I had done led me to joining the Foundation for Peripheral Neuropathy, a way of helping PN patients directly. Cataloging information of nationwide PN doctors, both in big cities and rural areas, and advocating to my local Congress leaders to increase the amount allocated to PN research funding has allowed me to take my PN research experience into the real world and help patients on their journey of getting support. I look forward to continue working with the Foundation and furthering the progress already made in getting PN support to all those in need.
As I move on to college and beyond, I will continue to involve myself in the PN field, exploring treatment options that may turn out to be lasting cures!