Marwa had to endure a month-long treatment to recover from COVID-19 completely Image Credit: Supplied

Sharjah: It may have been a visit made with good intention but one that was not well-heeded, especially in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

UAE-based Marwa, 21, a leukaemia survivor, described how she had developed signs of a flu after a family visit during Ramadan. Soon thereafter, her condition took a turn for the worse, and her family took her to the hospital, where she was tested positive for COVID-19.

NAT 200619 Survivor Marwa2 (11)-1592569152898
Marwa says maintaining social distancing is very important, especially for cancer patients Image Credit: Supplied

“I was extremely fearful of COVID-19, especially since I am a leukaemia survivor,” said Marwa, adding: “I felt helpless although I had my family’s support. The Ministry of Health and Prevention, meanwhile, assured me that since I was in the initial phase of the illness, it would be easier to treat the virus and hope for full recovery.”

Marwa had to endure a month-long treatment to recover from COVID-19 completely.

“As part of the treatment process, my family was quarantined while I had to be isolated. I went through a difficult time as I suffered from extreme fatigue and weakness. I was encouraged to boost my immunity levels by eating nutrient-dense fruits that provide all the essential vitamins to help the body fight the virus,” she shared.

Speaking from personal experience, Marwa has advised community members, especially cancer patients, to stay at home and practise physical distancing.

“If you test positive, do not panic. It significantly lowers your immunity levels,” she said, adding that patients should heed doctors’ instructions at all times and work towards improving their immune system.

Protect those who are at greater risk

Dr Sawsan Al Madhi, director general of Friends of Cancer Patients (FoCP), a UAE-based non-profit organisation, has highlighted the danger of ignoring precautionary health guidelines. She underlined those who are immuno-compromised or having an impaired immune system are at greater risk of contracting the infection.

NAT 200619 Dr Sawsan Al Madhi, FOCP Director General-1592569149401
Dr Sawsan Al Madhi Image Credit: Supplied

She also confirmed four FoCP beneficiaries have tested positive for coronavirus. While one did not survive, one is under treatment, and two, including Marwa, have successfully recovered, Dr Al Madhi pointed to reports that suggest that cancer patients contracted the virus after ignoring physical distancing protocols announced by the health authorities and the repeated advice issued by FOCP.

“One of the patients admitted to testing positive following a family visit while another caught the virus while undertaking social activities in public spaces,” FoCP noted.

Dr Al Madhi has emphasised that people who undergo active cancer treatment, especially those taking medications that compromise their immune system, are at a higher risk for COVID-19. They and their families should not fail to adhere to the precautionary and safety health measures.

She attributed the death of a breast cancer patient, who succumbed to complications arising from the virus, to failure to heed the relevant authorities’ advice.

Key points to keep in mind

FoCP has repeatedly raised awareness on the dangers associated with COVID-19 for cancer patients. It has also actively engaged with the community to practise physical distancing, avoid crowded places, regularly wash hands and ensure sufficient stock of necessary medications and supplies.

The organisation said it is important to have a pro-active and compassionate support for the cancer community because patients undergoing chemotherapy, intensive radiotherapy, antibody treatments, or other cancer treatments, have weakened immune systems which heighten their risk of contracting the virus.

FoCP said cancer patients should have adequate sleeping hours, consume healthy foods, and take up sports – if possible – to maintain physical fitness. They have also advised patients to have regular check-ups and remote consultations with their doctors, and to periodically sterilise their homes.