QCS and CCCL join forces in awareness-raising about childhood cancers

Qatar Cancer Society (QCS) and The Children’s Cancer Centre of Lebanon (CCCL) have joined hands to prevent childhood cancers by awareness-raising about cancer, collaboration, promoting key facts about paediatric oncology symptoms, importance of early detection, diagnoses, treatment and survivorship.

This co-operation comes on the occasion of Childhood Cancer Awareness Month ( September) and emphasising regional networks across borders for childhood cancer control.This is done through sharing the CCCL Bus of Hope film series, produced with the support of UNICEF and Sanofi Espoir, a collection of five simple and engaging short films promoting public awareness about childhood cancer. It is also done by sharing QCS videos to support and empower children living with cancer and social media posts.

Regional collaborations on crucial issues like childhood cancer control are essential to promoting much-needed awareness which helps in early detection, destigmatising cancer, and easing the journey on patients and their families.

The CCCL Bus of Hope films also feature childhood cancer patients, parents, survivors sharing their journey and experiences, alongside animations to convey the facts. The movies are in Arabic with English and French subtitles and suited for audiences of different ages

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Miles’s parents gained hope and strength from their young child

When you meet Miles, you first notice the bright energy that this five-year-old boy brings into the room. He is a smart boy with a charming smile. Miles sometimes speaks softly, which his father refers to as “volume 2.” Isaac, Miles’ father, always encourages him to raise his voice to a “volume 5” when talking to new people. Being a confident boy, Miles quickly adjusts to new situations. Since Miles was only two years old when he was diagnosed, he has only limited memories of his experience, and his father and mother were able to provide his whole story.

The diagnosis

In November 2016, Miles came from Kenya with his mother to visit his father- Isaac –  who Working in Doha’s airport as a supervisor, who was two years old – Miles developed a fever one week after they arrived. He was prescribed an antibiotic course by a private doctor. To their surprise, ten days passed, and Miles’ fever had not yet subsided. After visiting their health center, the doctors started testing Miles with so many test tubes to the point that Isaac was fearful that Miles’ blood was drying up. The hospital staff assured him that he was receiving fluid replacement but had not told him that they suspected something. At around 10 PM, a doctor informed Isaac that they were highly suspicious that Miles had leukemia, and the doctors explained to him in simple words about this disease

Isaac was taken aback and remembered his first words to the doctors were, “it can’t be.” He thought that it could not be true because none of his family members ever had that illness. The doctor recommended they start Miles the next day on chemotherapy without waiting. Isaac doubted the results’ validity, so he decided to return with Miles to Kenya for retesting. He booked a flight for the following day and left the hospital with his son. The doctor called Isaac at home and asked him to reconsider the decision to fly back and suggested he check the validity of the test in another local hospital. The doctor reasoned that earlier treatment would be better for his prognosis. Miles continued to have a high fever along with being restless throughout that night.

Isaac finally decided to cancel the travel plans and look for a local hospital for retesting. The hospitals were closed as it was Friday morning. Therefore, Isaac took Miles to the Al Sadd Pediatric Emergency Center. Miles’ original diagnosis of Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia was confirmed in the emergency department. Doctors explained the course of treatment for chemotherapy extensively, including the expected hospital stays and possible side effects.

Journey to cure

Miles was admitted to Hamad General Hospital on the 31st of December, 2016. Miles’ mother was still in shock at the time and was crying so much. She would wonder why this was happening to them, and Isaac told her that other people were also going through similar challenges.

Isaac felt obliged not to cry in front of his wife because that would mean they were desperate, and he wanted to give her hope. Isaac describes that time as one of the most demanding stages of the journey for him, as he felt responsible not to let his emotions take over him to support his wife and not let Miles think that anything was wrong. Isaac smiled as he said, “and that is how we spent New Year’s Eve in the hospital.”

The father’s work shifts were 12 hours. When Isaac’s shifts ended at 5 PM, he would go home to change. After that, he would return to the hospital to stay with his son until about 1 AM. He would then return home, take a shower, and go back to work. Miles’ mother would stay with her son all the time during the hospital stay. Because one side effect Miles had was a loss of appetite, Isaac made sure always to prepare food that Miles liked. Things started to change positively for the family in July 2018. They were informed that this was their last chemo dose. After that, they had to come regularly for six months for a follow-up to ensure that Miles’ health was optimum.

A difficult time

A problematic point was when Miles’ closest friend, and his neighbor in the hospital, started to develop a fever. By that time, the parents of both children had also become close friends. Whenever Miles developed a fever, the other child’s parents would assure Miles that Miles would improve, and he would. And naturally, Miles’ parents also supported the other child’s parents and provided them with hope. However, this time the fever lasted longer than usual without decreasing.

One day, Mile’s father came to the hospital to find the child’s bed empty. When he asked, they found out that he had passed away. Isaac was speechless in front of the other child’s father, not knowing how to console him. He also imagined how he would have felt if this had happened to Miles.

Happiest moment

The happiest moment in Mile’s cancer journey occurred after a spinal tap that Miles was undergoing. Isaac and his wife were very emotional since they could not join him in the procedure room. Miles was fatigued before he left his parents for the procedure. They were told that Miles might take up to 30 minutes after the spinal tap to wake up. They were also worried that he might develop complications. To their surprise, when Miles was brought from the procedure room back to his parents, he was more energetic than before going there. Isaac remembers his son calling them loudly while smiling, “Hey Mom, Dad, come here!” This was the happiest moment for Isaac, where he gained strength and hope from his minor child.

Role of Qatar Cancer Society

One doctor suggested that a social worker come and talk to Isaac regarding the bills. An educator from the Qatar Cancer Society visited him and told him not to worry about his finances if Miles’ treatment exceeded his means. The Society ended up subsidizing Miles’ chemotherapy. Members of the Cancer Society visited Miles regularly and brought toys to him. They also made sure to comfort Isaac and his wife regarding their son’s treatments

Advice 

Miles says that the injections were painful, but he believes that he only stayed at the hospital for “just two minutes.” He was able to do what he wanted to do at the hospital, and he especially liked the fact that he could watch as much TV as he tried to.

Speaking to the other kids who were going through what he went through, Miles insists that, “I don’t want them to have a hard day. I don’t want them to have a bad day. I don’t want them to cry.”

He said those words as a significant and hopeful smile appeared on his face: “You will all get better!”

Final messages from Isaac:

Isaac thanks QCS for being there with his family at a time when some of the few friends they had have disappeared, “and these guys (QCS) came and they were friends.”

According to him, help came from the people whom he did not expect to get help from. At the same time, it did not come from those whom we expected it to come from. Friends came once or twice at the maximum and then stopped showing up. The families were going through similar journeys to his family, who provided them with constant support.

Isaac learned the value of family during this journey. He knew that no matter what, your family would always be there for you.

Isaac encourages other parents going through similar situations to what his family experienced to have hope and be strong. He said his family had been there for Miles, him, and his wife, and they all got through it; therefore, he wants other parents to know that they will get through it.

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Ian: Qatar is one of the best countries in fight cancer

Ian is a 64-year-old retired British army officer who has been living in Qatar for the past seven years. After retiring from the army, he moved to the Middle East in 1979 to work in Sultan of Oman; Years later, he relocated to Qatar and lived alone while his wife and children lived in Australia. He has six children. All his children rely on him financially, and as a father, he has a strong sense of commitment to fulfilling their essential needs. His medical journey began 15 years ago, and this is his story :

In 2005, after returning to Australia from a business trip in Spain, Ian did not feel like his regular self. He decided to see his general practitioner (GP) as he was feeling tired and unwell. His doctor did a further workup that included an abdominal x-ray. A few days later, he got a phone call from the GP’s office asking him to come in for an urgent visit. He went to the clinic the following day, and the doctor showed him the x-ray results showing a suspicious lesion on the right kidney, which he described as a “lump.”  Ian has been relatively healthy for most of his life and describes himself as being “uninformed” about cancer.

Ian was then referred to a nephrologist, who eventually scheduled a surgical procedure to remove the “lump.” He underwent a right nephrectomy, and the suspicious lesion was removed, further examined, and determined to be benign in origin.

Years passed, and for 15 years after the surgery, Ian had no medical issues. But in November of 2019, he started experiencing pain in his right elbow. He decided to see his GP in Qatar, who prescribed aspirin to reduce the pain. Ian was not improving, the aspirin was not working, and his pain was only getting worse.

He decided to see a doctor at a private hospital in Qatar, who prescribed medicine

for pain relief. Unfortunately, the infusion only worsened his pain. A week later, Ian chose to see another doctor in private practice who worked in West Bay. When the new doctor saw him, he was concerned that Ian’s complaints had not been thoroughly investigated. The doctor requested several tests, including an upper extremity x-ray, and asked Ian to return once the results came out.

Two days later, while sitting at a coffee shop with a few of his friends, Ian received an alarming email from his doctor. In the email, the doctor explained that the x-ray revealed a large tumor in the right elbow, which looked severe and required urgent medical attention. Ian felt shocked and helpless.

He recounts the moment he received the life-changing test results: “I was sitting  in the cafe with friends, on a Friday morning, enjoying a latte and a croissant, when I received an email from my physician saying that I had a tumor in my arm that could potentially fracture my bone. At that moment, I honestly didn’t know what to think. I teared up. When you’re suddenly given such news, it is very devastating and tough to grasp at the time.”

Looking back, he was grateful for having some of his closest friends around him at the time. The following day, he went to see his doctor and was referred to Hamad General Hospital for a surgical evaluation. Later that evening, he was admitted to the inpatient surgical ward, and after two days, was operated on to remove the tumor.

Following the surgery, Ian felt weak now that his right arm was practically immobile. The tumor was removed, a metal pin was placed to support the joint, and several biopsies were taken for a microscopical evaluation of the mass to define its origin. When the biopsy results came out, Ian was diagnosed with advanced-stage four renal cancer

From that day onwards, he felt his life would change forever. He wanted to be hopeful but found it very difficult with the devastating news he had received. He was referred to a new oncologist, who supported him living with terminal cancer throughout his journey. After meeting his oncologist, Ian felt more robust and more hopeful about recovering from this grim disease. His oncologist made it clear that the doctors did not completely understand why cancer had metastasized but believed this could be due to remnant tissue in the right kidney that had gone unnoticed from the surgery he had fifteen years ago.

This was not an easy time for him. His family was in Australia, and only his eldest daughter understood what her father was going through. His friends were a significant source of support. They cooked, cleaned, bought groceries, and supported him in any way possible. He felt grateful and forever thankful for their presence in his life. Ian’s oncologist continuously motivated his spirit, pushing him to believe in himself and his ability to beat this disease. Upon finishing his last chemotherapy session, his doctor looked at him and said: “I think you’ll die from something else, and with the drugs we have, we can beat this!”

When asked about the first thoughts that came to his mind when he received the original news about his bone cancer and whether he would have preferred to be told in person, he says: “Well, first of all, I was furious that the earlier physicians missed it. I was initially devastated by email, but I was later very thankful that the doctor was proactive and pushed me to see him at Hamad the next day. Honestly, no matter how you’re told, it’s going to pull you apart.”

Ian explains that a lot of his initial fear stemmed from a lack of knowledge. “I think the problem is that 90% of us out there are uninformed about what cancer is. And we don’t know that it can be beaten! You think of the big ‘C-word,’ and your mind jumps to the worst. We think of the old movies where the guy gets cancer, becomes a vegetable, lives in a hospital, and dies. I’ve learned since then that they’re able to molecularly diagnose cancers and give you treatments that specifically target cancer cells. I’ve kept my hair, and overall, I feel quite well now.”

As a result of his initial uncertainty when receiving his diagnosis, he was reluctant to pursue treatment at first he intent to refuse treatment. However, I talked to my doctor and someone who was going through breast cancer treatment. She told me, ‘you’re probably in the best country in the world for this to happen to you; they have the best protocols and medical staff here.’ Having someone to talk to ahead of you in the treatment and maintains a positive outlook is a huge morale boost. Then, the surgeon supposed to do my arm surgery told me, ‘Look, Ian, you can beat this. That’s when my mind started to change. That’s when I changed my attitude completely–I thought, we can beat this. We started discussing mental attitude, prioritizing my health and well-being, and having short-term goals.”

Although the chemotherapy treatment and its side effects such as fatigue and a metallic taste have been challenging to deal with, he is grateful for his care in Qatar. “Once I got into the public medical system, Hamad Hospital and its doctors were great– flawless, attentive, focused.” He does not blame the doctors who potentially missed his tumour 15 years ago and has always “trusted the medical system.” He points out, “I don’t think I can point a finger or complain about what happened 15 years ago because I don’t know what the state of the technology was back then. Today, we have come light years ahead.”

Ian notes that sharing the diagnosis with his family was challenging. “It is tough because it makes you feel like you are not a real man, that you have a failing. You realize that you are not bulletproof”. Not having his family members around him for support was challenging; however, he says he is fortunate to have an adopted family here in Qatar. “I have 2-3 Qatari families here that I’m very close to, as well as many ex-pat friends. When I first got diagnosed, people would come over and cook me meals. It held me together mentally, knowing that people cared.” His employers and clients have been supportive as well.

He said “I could be going through some side effects from the chemotherapy, which altered my mood or energy, and they would be patient with me. This helped me keep working. I try to live as normally as possible without looking backward.”

Ian doesn’t “feel sorry” for himself and understands that “this is life.” He tries to “remain focused on what matters the most,” rather than “focusing on the fact that I am sick and tired, and expecting people to pity me.” He is driven by his desire not to let his children down and continue supporting them through school. He has focused on getting through one day at a time by creating achievable goals such as combing his hair after his arm surgery.

“I wanted to be able to brush my teeth with my hand; I wanted to be able to comb my hair. These small goals helped me work with my physiotherapist to try and improve because these little things affect your day-to-day life. I just started to drive again, and I learned how to use my left hand more.

Ian said “ You make little goals, something you can try to accomplish every week or every month. Whether it’s a physical or mental goal, I try to keep myself motivated and move forward.” He has learned to “enjoy things a little more, and take things a little slower because you aren’t going to have today again.”

As for his advice to someone newly diagnosed with cancer, he shares his positive outlook– “Living is worthwhile, and you have to stand up and push forward; you cannot go backward. You have to try; even if you are functioning at 80% of your best, go to work and do all the normal things you are supposed to do. You cannot fall into the trap of sitting on the couch, thinking that you are sorry for yourself. To me, this is the biggest thing you can do. You have to push forward”.

From his experience, cancer is usually a “taboo topic” in society, leading most people to refrain from talking about it. “You hear stories about people who died of it and not about people who beat it.” He firmly believes that receiving accurate and early information is crucial to the journey of recovery. His plans after recovery? Continue working! “I want to get back to living as normal a life as I can. I think when I beat it, I will have to give something back to society here in Qatar.”

 

 

 

 

 

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Noon , colon cancer survivor: live your day and have fun

“Noon” lives in Doha with his wife and two children. His home country is the Philippines, and he came to Qatar to pursue better work opportunities.

Several months before his diagnosis, he was experiencing pain in his chest below the right rib, coming from the area of the liver. But he did not tell his wife about the pain. At first, he thought it was just a gas pain, but it was recurring every day. And one night, he began to feel a severe stabbing pain on his right lower rib with a high fever, so we called emergency, and he was rushed to Al Wakrah Hospital.

After he was treated, the doctor informed him that he had colon cancer with the liver. He did not know a lot about the illness; he was saddened by the news and discouraged. That night he and his wife cried because of his condition.

“I was shocked when finding out that I had cancer, my wife and I were distraught. She was with me at the time when I received my diagnosis.

When anyone hears the word ‘cancer,’ they think that it is a death sentence. I am very thankful that my wife stayed by me from the beginning to support me at each stage of the journey.

I also have a sister who has breast cancer and is currently undergoing chemo treatments in the Philippines. She is a source of support to me. Every day we communicate through messaging, and sometimes, we do video calls. We encourage one another to fight this battle.

I believe that it is vital to have emotional support from the family. It is good to have friends and comfort you – I have many old friends, and I talk to them through Zoom. Also, the patient needs financial support that I got from the Qatar Cancer Society, and  I want to thank this charity for their financial help.

Last year in July, I was terminated from my job, and this added to my problems. I have worked for my company since 2005, and they kindly retained my sponsorship to continue my cancer treatment in Qatar.

I am so grateful to Qatar and the health system that takes care of all people who live in it; if I was diagnosed with this cancer in my home country, I don’t know what would happen to me… Some people in the Philippines can’t afford to go to the hospital, just waiting for their time.

During my cancer journey, my wife experience anxiety and depression because of the workloads she’s having, like doing the household chores, working from home, and at the same time taking care of me. My wife was very understanding and kept telling me that ‘you have done enough to your family’; I held a good job, created a strong family, provided for them, and gave them a better life.

I am looking forward to the future when I can help again. Personally,

sometimes I felt that I was worthless since I no longer work, and sometimes I want to give something to my wife or children, but I  hope one day I will be healthy again and have an everyday life with my family.

My children are also good at comforting me – they don’t know the exact medical details, but we told them that I have cancer. Since my children are teenagers, they understand my situation.

My advice to parents for talking to your children about cancer is that it depends on the situation and the age of the children – if they are teenagers, they can probably understand.

My advice to those who are first diagnosed with cancer: learn to accept the situation as soon as possible and motivate yourself to get better to overcome the illness.

I believe that God could heal you anytime, no matter how bad your situation is. And each day you wake up, thank God that he still has a plan for your life. Think that one day you are going to be healed: for nothing is impossible with God.

Now I am learning and coping with fighting this battle. Just live one day at a time.

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S’hail Holding, QCS sign agreement to support cancer patients

Qatar Cancer Society (QCS) and S’hail Holding Group have signed an agreement under which the latter will provide financial support of QR100,000 annually for three years to treat needy patients.

The agreement was signed by Sheikh Dr. Khalid bin Jabor al-Thani, chairman of QCS, and Sheikh Abdulaziz bin Ahmed al-Thani, member of the Board of Directors, S’hail Holding Group.

Sheikh Dr. Khalid valued the efforts of S’hai Holding Group in charitable and humanitarian work, especially in the health sector, and supporting the awareness efforts carried out by QCS, especially in supporting the treatment of cancer patients through the high costs of treatment for the disease.

HE. stressed that QCS, since its establishment in 1997, has sought not to have a single patient on the support waiting list. QCS has spent over QR19.5mn to treat about 1,317 patients and in the first quarter of 2021 has spent  over  QR 3.5 mn to treat about 981 patients In the National Center for Cancer Care and Research and Sidra Medical Center,

 

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Nadine AL -Bitar: From adversity comes gifts

“From adversity comes gifts” is a phrase that summarizes the journey of the Lebanese woman, Nadine AL -Bitar. She has had kidney cancer, which was discovered in May 2011. She was 27 years old at that time. Despite the fear and panic she felt when she received the news; she did not give up. Instead, she was sure that if God loved a servant, He would afflict him or her, so she was patient and armed with the strength of her faith in God. Therefore, she made her injury a new beginning and an opportunity to develop her personality.

At first, it was not easy to accept the news. Nadine discovered that she had kidney cancer by chance during a periodic visit to the doctor due to a slight pain in the right side of her back. After an Ultrasound exam (on a cyst in the right kidney), the doctor asked to do a computed tomography scan (CT scan) to the kidneys to confirm the type of cyst. She followed the doctor’s instructions and took the CT scan, and waited for the results that appeared after an hour. Her mother accompanied her. “I felt like it was the longest hour of my life. I was so scared and confused and didn’t expect to have kidney cancer.” She never expected to be diagnosed with kidney cancer because she always maintains a healthy life and follows a healthy diet; she used to exercise. There is no history of any cancer type in her family. Nadine was not ready to receive the news. She secretly overheard the doctor telling her mother, “Your daughter has kidney cancer, and she must undergo an operation to remove the right kidney so that the tumor does not spread and consequently does not affect her life.” First , Nadine was pointedly shocked and felt fear and panic. She started crying as soon as she heard the news, and it seemed that she was going to die for a while. Immediately, she made a call to work to take sick leave and start treatment.

Nadine began her treatment journey with her mother in Lebanon, where she underwent a nephrectomy. The surgery was complicated. she felt severe pain and had difficulty walking at first, so she had to rely on her mother in some matters, and she followed the doctors’ instructions not to travel for fear of any blood clots that might threaten her health. Therefore, she spent about two months after the operation at home to ensure her safety and ensure no complications after the operation. She stopped her work and wished she could get out of the house, as she considered that this might help her get rid of the constant thinking about illness and fear of the possibility of the tumor returning. She explained: “if I was in a work environment, with friends, or even if I was able to go out with my family, this reduced thinking about illness, making me feel an atmosphere of fun.” Nadine did not need chemotherapy. It was confirmed that the malignant tumor that was removed and the kidney did not spread to any other part of the body. Nevertheless, she undergoes periodic examinations every six months to ensure the remaining kidney’s health and make sure that no other tumor appears in any other organ of the body.

Nadine lived through a period of depression before and after the surgery, but it did not exceed a month. She was able to overcome this feeling through faith and patience. She knew that this was a test from the Lord, and she had to succeed in it.  Furthermore, her family played an essential role in her parents and brother and the rest of the family’s relatives. They supported her during that difficult period.

Additionally, Nadine’s friends played an active role in the continuous psychological support for her during the period of injury by urging her to become closer to God by reading the Qur’an and praying regularly. Nadine has reinforced her relationship with these cheerful and supportive people. On the other hand, she was keen to stay away from the negative people who made her feel helpless or of little use because she had cancer.  Their health condition is very private, as if their situation is hopeless.

Despite the pain and difficulties she faced through her experience with kidney cancer, she created opportunities to improve herself and develop her personality in every respect. It is worth noting that Nadine had a traffic accident three years before she was diagnosed with cancer, and it was an incentive for her to review her ideas and convert to Islam. She stated that cancer helped her decide to wear the hijab after almost three years and commit herself more to her religion. Nadine has also mentioned, “I changed a lot of myself, my character and personality. I considered that this is a message from the Lord directed to me to change a lot of myself, my character, my way of life, and my way of dealing with myself and others.”

Furthermore, Nadine noticed that her experience with cancer made her more patient and changed her approach to dealing with the ordeals she faced after cancer. Hence, naturally, she finds any calamity much easier than the one that she faced with cancer. As for health awareness, she has become more familiar with the health of her body in general and how to preserve her kidneys, especially through research. When people stress the importance of maintaining their health, it can persuade some to quit smoking because of its association with kidney cancer and other cancers or diseases. Finally, Nadine, an honorary ambassador at the Qatar Cancer Society, was keen to support cancer patients through various activities and projects to smile on their faces through her work with other societies.

Through her experience, Nadine sends a message to all cancer patients not to despair, as life is beautiful in all details, and she added, “You are distinguished from others, so the Lord has afflicted you, and this stage will pass, and the next is more beautiful.” She urged new cancer patients to strengthen their relationship with God and make their faith the first supporter in their journey. They must always trust God and be keen to mix with positive people and make themselves happy and stay away from sadness and tension to fight this disease. She concluded, “With God’s permission and your determination, you will pass this stage, and it will be a new beginning. Remember; that despite the pain, hope remains.”

Edited by : Arwa Ajaj

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Robert Khoury: I discovered cancer by chance

Robert  Khoury is originally from Lebanon, and he came to Doha in 2005. He works in the field of advertising and exhibitions. He remembers the day distinctly that he was diagnosed with kidney cancer, on April 29, 2019. Since he is a triathlon athlete who competes regularly, he was surprised at this discovery.

“I was lucky that my cancer was discovered at an early stage, at stage 1. I went to Oman to compete in a triathlon, and I went to the hospital for a check-up. I told them that I had a problem with my stomach. Fortunately, the doctor was able to diagnose that there was something wrong with my kidney. So he started doing an ultrasound and CT scan, and he discovered a 4-centimeter tumor in my left kidney, which is how we found it by accident.

I was so surprised when I heard about cancer because I was healthy and an athlete. So when I went to the Head of Urology at the hospital, and when he told me that they had found a tumor, the first thing that came to my mind was, ‘How come?: I don’t drink alcohol, I eat healthy food, I wake up in the morning, I do sports, and I am always on a diet.’ So how come one day you are in good shape and the next day you are a cancer patient? It was surreal to be healthy and fit one day, and the next day you are a cancer patient. So it was awkward. But I have to live with it. Because I do a triathlon, which is one of the most challenging sports, and you need endorsements, I felt that my physical fitness helped me to overcome the experience of cancer. And I am fighting it.

I am now cancer-free, and I have two years of treatment to follow up. And hopefully, I will pass through this stage. And strangely, I did not experience any adverse symptoms – the next day after I was diagnosed, I went swimming. And I did not feel anything – even the urine test was 98% clear, and I continued my life normally until they removed the tumor. And I did not do any chemotherapy. I had some pain in my back because I had robotic surgery, and my body was bent over during the operation, but I am following up with the doctors about the back pain.

And I knew about the Qatar Cancer Society services – they invited me once to a conference on blood cancer. It was the first time that I ever attended such a conference, and it was beneficial, and I am looking forward to similar discussions at QCS. When you know about something, you are better off because you know what to expect and what you are doing.

By nature, I am a fighter – the big fear that I have, the big question mark, is that I have a little kid. What will happen to him? It is my only fear. But after my surgery, I am feeling normal, and it is not the main issue now, just a minor issue, and I am continuing my life as usual. Tomorrow I am doing a long ride, 100 kilometers. So really, I don’t feel that I am a patient. I live day by day, and I always tell my wife, ‘you don’t need to worry.’ My wife was very supportive. She didn’t say, ‘how? Why?’ instead, she said that we are going to fight it together. And I told her, even though I am a patient, I am a survivor, and I am fine. You never know when your time will come – maybe I am crossing the road, and a car will hit me, you never know. So it is not a big issue; it is something my wife and I need to focus on and fight.

My son did not know about cancer because he is two years old. My wife is a firm believer, and when I told her about cancer, she said, ‘we are believers, and we are going to pray, and this is the only thing that we can do, and we are going to fight it together. And she no longer asks me how I am doing, as long as she sees that I am doing my cycling, my swimming–so nothing happened, nothing changed, and that is why she is comfortable with the situation. Whenever I go to the doctor, my wife asks me whether it is positive or negative, and I tell her it is positive, and she smiles, and everything is fine.

I have a friend in Qatar, and she is a triathlete as well. And she was diagnosed with cancer last year. She went to Hamad Medical Corporation and did the treatment, and the first thing that I asked her was where she would recommend that I be treated? She said to go to Hamad hospital, So this is what happened. And to tell you the truth, this is the first time I went to any government hospital, and I went in and out without any problems. It was perfect—five-star service.

When some of my friends found out about my cancer, they said they were sorry, and I asked them: ‘Why are you sorry?  It’s cancer; it’s a disease. Either you kill it, or it kills you. It’s normal like anything in the world.’ People who were showing pity to me avoided them because they don’t understand what is going on with me, and I feel 100% good. But from the family side, they were very supportive, to be honest. My sister is a scientist in the U.S., and she said fight it, and we will see in the end who will win. My brother, an engineer, said: ‘don’t worry, we are with you, whatever you need, and that is my family.

I am in a managerial post, and my work doesn’t directly affect how the team works; and when I was diagnosed, the management supported me a lot; they said, ‘take the time you want, whatever you need.’ I was going on holiday on June 1 (my vacation was planned for April before I was diagnosed), so I was already on vacation during the operation.  My doctor told me I needed 1 month to recover, but after three weeks, I was bored at home, and I told the doctor that I needed to go back to work and said okay, go back to work. And there was no conflict at work. There was no fatigue; I just had lower back pain, which was expected because my body was bent during the operation.

When I went to the Urology Department for my operation, the doctor gave me two options about the procedure I wanted, and I chose the robotic one. I told them, ‘listen, I am not a medical person. I don’t have experience with cancer, so I am counting on you.’ And I told them that I don’t want to listen to their options. I came to them because I trusted them: give me the best opportunity, and I will go for it, I will sign for it, which is what happened. Because, to be honest, even if the doctor gives me options, I have no clue what he is talking about. I told him, yes, I am the patient, and I have the right to choose, but I don’t know how to choose, so tell me what is best for me, and I will go for it. There was a nurse, and she talked to me all the time, and she said, you have a powerful personality, that I was not allowing her to offer help because I was very positive, absorbing.

I am a believer, but I don’t use prayer as a cure. I tell my wife that once we are born, we are dying. So sooner or later, we are going to die; how, only God knows. Being an expatriate did not cause any concerns

After this experience, I appreciate life more. Every day I wake up, and I thank God that I am still in health. Now I am concerned that even though I am cured, you never know whether it comes back. So I always have this question, will it come again or no? And every day, I wake up and thank God that I am in good health and that I can raise my kid – to be honest, he is my focus. If I were single, I would have a different perception – you know, if it comes, I don’t care, you have nothing to worry about. My concern is him, such as how he will live if something happens to me. I always thank God that I am in good shape so that I can see him grow up. I appreciate time with my family and life. Before I used to go to train every day, now I think twice before going to train because I need to spend time with my son. So this is a positive thing that I learned. I will not be competing as before, but I will contend. Back, I used to have some competitors, now I only have one competitor, and that is myself, and I am happy with the situation as long as I am crossing the finish line. And spending time with the family, I am finding that it is crucial, even for my training.

If a newly diagnosed patient came to me, I would advise them not to worry about it. They should not worry about something that they cannot control. They should not look back because they need to go forward, back in the wrong way. And looking ahead is fighting cancer and continuing with life. Don’t put cancer as an obstacle to doing the things that you want to do. Just go through it, fight it, and assume that you don’t have it because worrying about it or not, you have it. Worrying about it or not worrying, if you are cured, then you are healed. So why make life miserable, while you can take advantage of it and make it good?  And I was reading about this American or British woman who swam the English Channel four times and had stage 4 cancer. I don’t know why people don’t read about these people – she is not cured, but she swam the sea four times. If she can do it, anyone can do it. Cancer is nothing to me. It is just a disease, and I am curing it.

The advice I have for anyone with cancer: look forward, not backward. Looking backward is useless. You need to live daily and continue your everyday life: enjoy life, appreciate life, and that’s it.”

The friends I talked about, who were pitying me, asked me, ‘how are you talking so freely about cancer?’ I told them that if someone did not take care of their cold or fever, they might die as well. Any illness, if you don’t look after it properly, you might die from it. And I think that because I was talking about cancer freely, it helped me a lot… Some people don’t mention cancer; they say, ‘ah, they have this illness.’ I think people are afraid of cancer because they don’t know why cancer starts. It is a strange thing that appears. And even me, I asked, ‘what’s the reason? How come?’  Even the doctor cannot give you the proper answer. It just happens. So I think that is why people are afraid of cancer because it is an unknown disease, and it just appears, and you discover it.

I have a friend who said to me, ‘how come you have cancer?. And I told her, maybe I was diagnosed early because I did this service for other people, so why are you focusing on the negative side and not the positive?

Early detection is essential. I am having a problem with my wife getting her to go for screening. She said she is afraid that if she goes for tests, then they might discover cancer. And I told her that if they find out cancer, then it is good – if you don’t get tested and have cancer, it is horrible. So I am struggling to get her to do the tests. And now I have friends who are going for cancer screening every six months because no one ever imagined that I would have cancer: everyone knows that I am an athlete, I don’t drink, I eat healthy foods, etc. and they thought ‘if this guy got cancer, then anyone can get it.’

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QCS launches “It’s all about prevention “challenge

QATAR Cancer Society (QCS) has launched “It’s all about prevention “campaign to raise awareness of colorectal cancer, which  is  the  second common cancer between both genders, first common cancer across men, and third common cancer across females in Qatar.- according to Qatar National Cancer Registry (QNCR) – Ministry of Public Health – 2016:

Dr. Hadi Mohamad Abu Rasheed – Acting Head of Professional Development and Scientific Research Department at QCS, said: More than 150 cases were diagnosed with colon cancer in Qatar, 67% of the cases in Qatar were males and 33% were females, 74% of the cases were Non-Qatari, while 26% were Qatari, 69.9% of colon cancer patients have the chance to survive four years later after getting diagnosed, noted that 55-59 years old was the highest age group with cancer incidences, in both genders. According to Qatar National Cancer Registry (QNCR) – Ministry of Public Health – 2016:

Heba Nassar – Head  Educator ae QCS, said, “This campaign aims to raise awareness about colorectal cancer, which is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells in the colon or the rectum. Most colorectal cancers begin as a polyp on the inner lining of the colon or rectum. Some types of polyps can transform into cancer for several years, but not all polyps become cancer.”

The campaign included many events and virtual workshops that were launched on the media platforms, many entities participated in it, most notably the National Cancer Program, the Ministry of Public  Health, Hamad Medical Corporation, and the Primary Health Care Corporation, as well as cooperation with many experts and specialists as Mrs. Khawla Al-Bahr – public health expert, Mrs. Dana Hassan-  therapeutic nutrition specialist and Dr. Michael Mallat (Gastrointestinal specialist diseases), as well as the participation of people living with cancer in awareness workshops, and publishing their survival stories on various platforms. She added.

The campaign also witnessed the launch “It’s all about prevention “challenge by encouraging employees to prepare a healthy lunchbox during working hours and taking a picture for three healthy boxes then sharing them on QCS’ social media; the winners are the employees of  QATAR LUXURY COMPANY WLL, Lulu hypermarket, Al Asmakh Real Estate Development Company, S’hail Holding Group.

She stressed the importance of adopting a healthy lifestyle to prevent cancer, the most important of which is an exercise through getting 30  minutes of aerobic activity every day; limit your consumption of red meat. Studies show that bowel cancer risk is 17-30 % percent higher if a person eats 100-120g of red meat every day. Decrease portions or choose chicken or fish instead,” She said .”Besides, eat more fruits and vegetables.”

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Faith : Cancer made me stronger and persistent

In April of 2017, a short visit to the doctor changed Faith life forever.  He had begun to notice a small mass on the left side of his neck, but he didn’t think much of it at the time and initially dismissed it.  He only decided to get it checked out when prompted by my friends and family.

 Faith said “ I  conceded for their sakes, but I wasn’t worried; it was flu season, and besides, everyone in my family is in good health. I remained oblivious as I took sick leave from work, and I avoided them like I had the plague—I made my way to the hospital, which wasn’t so far from the stock-keeping company where I worked. The doctors poked and prodded, hunting for a diagnosis, scouring my body for information. The doctors decided to surgically remove my thyroid gland, and in June 2017, I underwent surgery and a biopsy. They then told me that I had papillary thyroid carcinoma, a type of cancer that affects the thyroid gland.

Upon learning about my condition, I was shocked. cancer had been the last thing on my mind. But my initial fears were put to ease by the doctor’s reassurances that this type of cancer is the most common and amongst the most curable and that my chances were fantastic. Despite my initial reactions, my mind was surprisingly clear and I worked with my doctor to draw up an elaborate plan to overcome my illness. I knew exactly what I had to do and was determined to beat cancer.

The next month, the doctors performed the surgical removal of my thyroid gland which was thoroughly colonized by cancer cells. The surgery was declared a success, but the doctors advised me to do high-dose radioactive iodine therapy, as opposed to the standard dosage. The higher dosage would almost guarantee that cancer wouldn’t come back, at least not for a while. However, it wasn’t offered here in Doha so I would have to travel to another country to receive the treatment. So in September of 2017, I had high-dose radioactive iodine treatment.

I was also given a lifelong prescription of thyroxine supplements and a tiny scar to remind myself of the victory. I was satisfied, ready to close that chapter and move on with my life. I could return to enjoying my time by video-calling my family and shopping with friends. I felt carefree again. Every three months, I had routine follow-up appointments. The doctor also gave me a regular follow-up appointment, and it was during one of these that they found a 6 mm mass that thankfully wasn’t cancerous. I had low-dose radioactive iodine therapy in June 2018 as part of my treatment.

As time went on I was no longer thinking of obscure masses on my neck or anything cancer-related. The routine follow-up appointments every three months and the regular follow-up with my doctor were the only reminders that I had even gone through that experience. Every visit felt like a small victory. Every time the doctor told me that there was no sign of cancer, I let out a small sigh of relief. As the months passed and I continued testing negative for any recurrence of cancer, the follow-up appointments began to feel redundant, and I felt confident that we had warded off cancer. So during a follow-up appointment in November of 2019, I failed to notice the unusually long ultrasound, the doctor’s careful manner, or the nurses’ sympathetic expressions. With an almost guilty expression on his face, the doctor informed me that he had found a new 3 mm mass in my lymph nodes, which was a new recurrence of cancer. Again, the medical staff tried to reassure me that this was a fairly common phenomenon, that 75% of patients with thyroid cancers exhibit metastasis to the lymph nodes. They advised me to complete another round of high-dose radioiodine therapy.

I felt sorry for myself. I had followed through with the plan and had done everything right. I had already beat cancer. How could it be back? I tried to trace my habits, searching for clues in my lifestyle. I needed answers, to find logic in my illness. I came up blank. I began to blame myself at this point. Not just for this complication but forgetting cancer in the first place. Was it an unhealthy diet? Was it bad luck? Or perhaps a neighbor’s evil eye? I felt responsible, convinced that if I had done something differently in my life then perhaps I could’ve prevented it. But the truth is that nobody can prevent or predict cancer. It took me a long while and a lot of heartaches before I realized this, but when I finally did, it became easier to modify my action plan and move onto the next phase of treatment.

I returned in February of 2020 for another round of high-dose radioactive iodine treatment. This would help eradicate the cancerous tissue that had migrated to my lymph nodes. As standard protocol, they had asked me to stop taking my thyroxine medication in the weeks leading up to the therapy so I was constantly fatigued and in pain. The pills they gave me for my symptoms only replaced my lethargy and pain with overwhelming nausea. My hormones were all up-and-down; some days I would be shivering while other days I would be sweating so much that I would have to take up to three showers. These were the most difficult times of my cancer journey. My life became bland and it had little to do with the low-salt diet that was prescribed to me. I had expected that the radioactive therapy would have felt agonizing like my insides were burning. But I don’t specifically recall that pain. Thinking back, I wonder where I drew the strength to endure a treatment that felt like being nuclear-bombed. I suspect that perhaps it was because I had no choice. I didn’t have time to dwell on the details of my discomfort as I just needed to be done with it so I could proceed to the next phase of the plan.

After the radioiodine therapy in February, I was in one-month isolation because the radiation that I was emitting would be harmful to anybody in my vicinity. Those few weeks where I was completely on my own reinforced my sense of alienation; my physical isolation reflected the mental isolation of my cancer diagnosis.  But there was light at the end of the tunnel. Soon after this period, my doctor gave me good news. I had cleared the last hurdle: I was once again cancer-free.

From then on, I was wary during my follow-up appointments. I was careful not to be overconfident about the status of my cancer this time, cognizant that my papillary cancer had already spread to my lymph nodes before and that it could happen again. Like clockwork, a couple of months later they found more cancer sprinkled in my lymph nodes. With every encounter, my cancer grew stronger and more persistent but I was unfazed; I was evolving alongside my cancer and felt prepared for it this time. No longer naïve, I was ready to attack the next course of treatment.

The treatment was the same radioactive iodine ablation therapy that was used against my cancer the last time. However, I was advised to seek a higher dosage, as opposed to the standard dosage that was previously administered. The higher dosage would almost guarantee that cancer wouldn’t come back, at least not for a while. A new battlefield, same old enemy. Where I had been supported financially and emotionally by the Qatar Cancer Society (QCS) in Doha, I would have to look for new solace wherever I decided to seek treatment. I decided to continue my treatments back home in Sri Lanka so that I could be surrounded by my family and friends; it seemed like a fair enough trade-off.

Before I left, QCS gave me a booklet called Story of Hope, which detailed the experiences of many cancer survivors. While reading through the stories, I was filled with the strangest feeling. Although the individuals in the stories were so different from me—their backgrounds, their types of cancers, and their individual experiences — I still found myself able to relate to bits and pieces of their journeys. Up until this point, I remained strong because I felt that I had no other choice. I simply had to go on. But reading through the stories in the booklet filled me with extraordinary hope, inspiration and helped me realize that there is no cookie-cutter cancer experience, the only rich variety that is unique to every patient. Finally, I was able to make sense of my experience and take control of my narrative. It was hard to constantly hear that I had the “good” or “easy” type of cancer because while I respect that many others have had more difficult journeys, it undermined the fact that my experience was far from good or easy. Cancer is still cancer. It was nowhere as straightforward as the doctors would tell me, as the websites would reassure me. I constantly had to modify my action plan; I had to be determined yet flexible, hopeful but not naïve. Reading the QCS booklet helped me realize that cancer is not the monolithic disease that the label suggests. Rather, it is a continuum experienced differently by every cancer patient. Suddenly, I felt liberated from any expectation of how this process was supposed to go and drew strength from the fact that cancer could be beaten even in all its different forms. I began to see the unpredictability of cancer as predictable and felt comforted that no matter how cancer presented itself, I would be able to overcome it. Now that I have finished my treatment, I hope that my story can similarly inspire other cancer patients who felt as lost as I did. I hope they can find clarity and see themselves in my story. But I would hope even more for them to be able to create their own story, on their terms.

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QCS concludes “I am and I will “campaign

Qatar Cancer Society (QCS) has concluded the ‘I am and I will’ campaign, which continued throughout February on the occasion of the World Cancer Day and saw several events, awareness competitions and virtual workshops being held to raise awareness of cancer, methods of prevention and the importance of early detection.The campaign, launched under the umbrella of the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC) in which the QCS is a member, included many events and activities, most notably a motorbike event at Lusail in co-operation with Qatar Motorcycle Center (Batabit) and MAWATER Center. In addition, a virtual walking challenge and short story and educational video competitions for school and universities students were also part of the campaign. Within the framework of the preventive measures to limit the spread of the coronavirus, the campaign was launched on various media and electronic platforms.

Several awareness videos for the campaign were produced with the participation of media figure Abdulrahman Al Ashqar. Virtual awareness workshops about cancer and on healthy lifestyles were also held. Electronic awareness brochures were produced in all main languages to benefit as many people as possible. Even coffee cups in cafes and restaurants were used to spread awareness message.
A virtual workshop for capacity building of cancer awareness promoters was also held as part of the events. The QCS participated in a virtual seminar on World Cancer Day in cooperation with the Ministry of Public Health’s National Cancer Programme, Hamad Medical Corporation, Primary Health Care Corporation and Sidra Medicine.An awareness workshop was organised on how to overcome the fears during the treatment period and beyond for people living with breast cancer, in addition to publishing stories of hope on many platforms and involving cancer survivors in virtual workshops.Many institutions and companies in Qatar participated in the World Cancer Day campaign, including Ooredoo, QTerminals, Talabat, FMM, Triple Two, the Social and Sport Contribution Fund (Daam), Qatar Aluminum and Doha Film Institute.The campaign also included roadside advertisements supported by Elan Qatar WLL and lighting up of Qatar’s landmarks in pink to mark the World Cancer Day, in cooperation with the Public Works Authority (Ashghal).As part of the campaign, Talabat donated one riyal to QCS for all orders placed via its mobile application, Ooredoo enabled its customers to donate Nojoom points to QCS, while Yalla Toys participated in the campaign by offering 100 electronic gift vouchers for children with cancer.

 

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