Dubai: Omar Hossam Al Deen Abdul Rahman Al Ismail was only six years old when he was struck by leukaemia. The now 13-year-old teenager recalls his fight with cancer. “It was 2013 and I had just arrived from Egypt from my home-town Elmina with my mother and sister to join my father who was working in Dubai. I loved the UAE as soon as I landed and was so thrilled to be reunited with my dad. However, my happiness was short-lived as I started running a fever, had severe pain and felt very weak. My parents took me to Dubai Hospital where, after running a battery of tests, cancer was confirmed. My parents were devastated,” recalled Al Ismail, a Grade 9 student at a Dubai school.
‘I was not afraid’
Al Ismail told Gulf News he was so young that he did not even understand the true import of being a cancer patient. “I had no idea what cancer was. All I knew was that I was very sick and my treatment of chemotherapy and other protocols was a big blur for many years. It was only when I grew older did I understand what cancer meant. I learnt early that there was no point being scared of cancer. Even when I knew what cancer meant, I thought it was an examination for my family and I had to battle against it and win,” said the young student who finally beat cancer in 2019. He now harbours the dream to be a doctor or scientist to help humanity.
His message to other children and people facing the ordeal is simple: “Never give up on yourself; believe in God and be brave to battle through cancer. You will triumph,”
‘I unchained myself from negative feelings’
In another case, Fadwa Hussein, a mother of three, was 36 when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She told Gulf News: “Only one other person in my family, my grandmother, had had breast cancer and I inherited the BRCA gene from her. In 2015, I was diagnosed with cancer when I found two lumps in my left breast,” said the Sudanese computer teacher, now 41, who underwent prolonged treatment at Tawam Hospital, Al Ain. Hussein said it was an extremely positive attitude that helped her tide over the crisis.
“My family and friends were supportive. I never questioned why me — not even when I had to undergo double mastectomy and removal of ovaries and uterus. I went through the treatment protocol with the conviction that I was going to beat it. At the hospital, when I saw other women depressed or crying, I would talk to them and inspire them. I would tell them, your cancer will be cured, but your mental health issues will kill you. I feel God is kind and loving and having faith in Him changes a lot of things,” said Hussein who has been cancer-free since 2019 and aiming to do a masters in computers to fulfil her late father’s dream.
“I keep myself busy, I am loved by my family and friends, I take time out to give priority to my health. I exercise, have healthy food and am grateful for my life. Keeping this attitude can beat the deadliest of diseases,” said Hussein.
“I overcame my cancer because I unchained myself from the negative feelings and faced my fears. Before I was taken to the operation theatre, I remembered God. I survived and now I am leading a normal life, helping my children with their homework and volunteering to help the elderly,” she added.
Inspiring hope in others
Both Al Ismail and Hussein are ambassadors of hope who have highlighted their journeys in a book titled Survivors, that was launched by the Friends of Cancer Patients (FOCP) at the 40th edition of Sharjah International Book Fair (SIBF) this week. FOCP is a UAE-based non-profit organisation dedicated to raising cancer awareness and funds for those who cannot afford treatment.
Released by the FOCP under the supervision of the Supreme Council for Family Affairs’ (SCFA) Cultural and Media Office, Survivors is a collection of inspiring true stories of cancer survivors that highlight the characteristics that enable patients to challenge and defeat cancer. It also recounts the experiences of an FOCP staffer in offering emotional support to cancer patients.
The book aligns with the FOCP objectives of advocacy, awareness as well as financial support. It focuses on the importance of providing emotional support to cancer patients as well as survivors and highlights its positive impact on a patient through the treatment as well as the recovery stage.
Template for resilience and courage
On the launch, Sawsan Jafar, chairperson of FOCP Board of Directors, said: “The book is a testimony to FOCP’s remarkable achievements realised over the past 22 years under the patronage of Shaikha Jawaher bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, wife of the Ruler of Sharjah, Founder and Royal Patron of the FOCP. In addition to this, Shaikha Jawaher is also the International Ambassador of the World Cancer Declaration for Union for International Cancer Control (UICC), International Ambassador for Childhood Cancer for UICC, and Royal Patron of the Global NCD Alliance Forum.”
Jafar said Survivors would serve as a guide to cancer patients in facing the challenges of treatment based on the experiences of survivors who had successfully navigated the terrain. It also sheds light on the role played by the community and compassionate individuals who have made a positive impact on the survivors and their families. She emphasised that the book would give hope to patients under treatment and strengthen their will to face the challenges ahead in their journey towards full recovery.
Model of cooperation
Saleha Ghabish, head of the SCFA’s Cultural and Media Office, underscored that the book project represented a model of cooperation and integration between entities that operate under the patronage and directives of Shaikha Jawaher. She pointed out that the book comprised human stories that spread the spirit of hope, determination and persistence to overcome tribulations and crises.
“We are delighted to have partnered with FOCP, a prestigious organisation that has been serving cancer patients by providing them moral and financial support for decades, reassuring them that they are not alone. It has also been at the forefront of raising awareness on preventive measures as well as early detection of cancer,” said Ghabish.
Horia Ahmed, head of the Patient Affairs Department at FOCP, noted that Survivors is a message of hope that shines light on the role of willpower in overcoming difficulties. “The story of each survivor stands out as a shining example to be emulated. The best moment in a patient’s life is when he or she wins against cancer and goes back to normal life, embracing it more passionately than ever before,” she added.