“My younger sister was diagnosed with cancer in 2007. Watching her trying to live with the illness was my inspiration to raise awareness about it,” says Reem Al Buainain, founder of Positive Cancer Foundation (PCF).
In 2010, Reem started tweeting about life, courage and dealing with cancer.
She told Gulf News: “Almost everyone knows someone who is suffering from cancer, be it a family member, a friend, a neighbour or a colleague.”
She later decided to change her twitter handle to @positivecancer after noticing how keen her followers were on those tweets. That is when the idea of starting an official foundation occurred to Reem and the PCF was officially launched as a nonprofit foundation to help change the way people live with and fight cancer, through developing a positive environment and attitude towards the disease and via harnessing the collective efforts of the patients and their families, the specialists and relevant government institutions.
Towards the end of 2011, with the help of her team, a group of young and enthusiastic UAE nationals, Reem launched the Positive Cancer website, which as a first initiative carried a successful nation-wide survey to assess the level of cancer awareness among the general public and patients and emphasised the importance of increased awareness to improve the lives of cancer patients while extending support to their families and friends.
Reem said: “The survey results indicated that the levels of public awareness on the impact of cancer on individuals and communities in the UAE is considered minimal in comparison to developed countries and to the socioeconomic development of the UAE.”
Seeing the high level of interaction with the survey, the team was inspired and on UAE’s 40th National Day they published their first video on their website, which was produced by a group of volunteers and featured cancer patents who are positively living with the illness and contributing towards the development of the nation.
The video spread rapidly and gained tremendous support from the twitter followers.
The foundation has been active since then through not just the internet, but also through radio shows and newspaper articles. They’ve also organised projects and workshops in different organisations within the community.
In March, 2013, the Positive Cancer Foundation officially became the first federal foundation concerning cancer in the UAE.
Reem said: “We will keep raising awareness and are working on projects to assist patients, their families and friends in finding the information, support and advice that will help them cope with the diagnosis. We aim for the support to be holistic and complement primary medical treatment with education and psychological support and care.”
Last year, during the International Breast Cancer Awareness Month (October), the foundation organised a series of awareness workshops for the women of the UAE governmental organisations, universities and schools, entitled: “Early Awareness of Breast Cancer”. These were delivered by Rahma Wehelie, Ph.D., Founder and Managing Director of the Swedish institute Ridales Healthcare Consulting-Breast Cancer Training.
At the end of the year, the foundation were given the opportunity to manage the opening of Abu Dhabi Sports Council’s (ADSC) celebration for the UAE’s 42nd National Day, entitled: “In Love with Zayed”, which took place at the Abu Dhabi Theatre. As part of the event, there was an art exhibition of 42 paintings by UAE artists. All proceeds went to the PCF.
This was followed by another partnership with the ADSC’s event titled “Health and Physical Fitness Campaign”, which took place from January 19 – 22, 2014. The PCF organised an awareness forum entitled: “Think Positively and Move Forward.”
The forum covered a lecture delivered by Dr Mirna Ghannoum, Radiology and Radiation Therapy Specialist and Member of the European Society of Breast Cancer, where she provided general information on the different types of cancer.
Dr Ghannoum talked about the means of prevention, emphasising on the importance of early diagnosis that contributes immensely to avoiding the consequences of the disease. She focused on the ways of preserving one’s general health, mentioning some healthy practices that help with fitness.
For more details on the foundation, you can visit www.positivecancer.ae or follow them on twitter and Instagram @positivecancer.
The author is based in Abu Dhabi.
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