Alison Stone; Cancer made me a much better

My name is Alison Stone, and I have a PhD in Metaphysics, so I am often referred to as Dr. Alison Stone. I came to Qatar to open up a lady’s well-being centre and the reason that I took this journey of well-being and preventative medicine is because I was diagnosed with cervical cancer when I was 30. So I do attribute my success today in my life today to that incident that happened many years ago. I have survived cancer for 27 years and I think it is very important to see how things have changed in that time period.

Here is a brief synopsis of my journey ;

I was married at 18 (in my generation that was acceptable and normal), had 2 children and when I was pregnant with my third child, I went for a routine check-up and they discovered that I had lesions and they were cancerous. Now one of the things that I was blessed with in the UK was that in the 80s and early 90s, Pap smears were becoming very accessible for women: they weren’t mandatory, and they weren’t encouraged, but they were accessible, so after the birth of my first daughter I had them done, so I continued getting Pap smears after the birth of my second daughter. Had I not been tested, I am convinced that I would not be here today.

Cervical cancer that I had is very aggressive, and mine especially because I was pregnant at the time. The cancer had gone to my lymph nodes, so by the time I had delivered my child, I was in stage 4, so I do feel very strongly about the need to be proactive with your health.

Because of that experience, it forced me to look at my life and my control over my own life. The experience of the surgeries and the treatments that you go through have such a profound effect on you physically, but I think it is more the fear, that has the most profound effect, and the fear I had 27 years ago was never addressed. So now when I find out about societies like Qatar Cancer Society in Qatar, I am so impressed and I am really excited that women have this opportunity to be supported. Had we had something similar back in my day, it might not have changed the outcome, but it would have changed the journey.

As a mother back then, you would not know what cervical cancer was. And in my day, doctors did not understand that it was the human papilloma virus that caused cervical cancer. And so we suffered in silence. I remember on the fourth day after the surgery–about 14 hours of surgery–and I started to cry. I remember the nurse came in and said, “stop crying there are people worse off”. And I remember that I never spoke again. I never spoke about my pain and I internalized it. So it was ‘keep a brave face, don’t speak about it, don’t talk about it,’ and when I look back now, I see how it really took a good 10 or 15 years after that until cancer could be talked about openly. Now having chemo and not having hair, we kind of celebrate it, it’s ok, and I think that Social Media is a way for people to talk about their own experiences   and raise awareness about cancer .

I chose to take control of my life, and I took a spiritual path – I was lost and I was fearful, and I think that learning and things like meditation about your health give you back a sense of control. Because when you are diagnosed and the doctor says ‘you have cancer, it is in the stage 4, this is serious’ – you hand everything over to them, and with it goes this feeling of hopelessness, because now you are at the mercy of people telling you that ‘you have to have this surgery, you have to have this chemo, you have to have this radiotherapy” but you don’t feel sick.

So the growth of self-help groups has been positive, since doctors are starting to understand that patients need to have some emotional care. As a patient, I am not just somebody who has had a surgery and whose vital signs you will check – I have gone through something life-changing–a hysterectomy– and I might be facing the fact that I will never have children again, the fact that I might die and leave my children, the fact that my husband might never love me again, and I have scars everywhere – nobody addressed that. It was all ‘hush hush,’ don’t talk about it or ‘You should be grateful you are alive.’ Now I feel that people can talk about the cancer experience, they can address it, and I think that the difference in Qatar (I was here 10 years ago), is that nobody said the word, nobody said that word, and women therefore, especially Middle Eastern women who tend to put their children first, their husbands first, their sons first, would never even acknowledge having cancer, or want to know, that was the issue. I addressed a group of ladies in a middle eastern conutry 12 years ago and we tried to convince them to get breast check and pap smear tests, and they wouldn’t do it because they didn’t want to know, because they have fear or they feel that sickness is based on divine intervention – and either way, they feel they should surrender to it, and they don’t want to know. But the generation of women now, we can do something about it, especially the survivors. You can survive cancer, but that is a message that is never given out – you always hear ‘cancer death’ ‘cancer death’ – what about instead ‘cancer journey,’ ‘survival,’ ‘change,’ ‘power,’ ‘change in life,’ ‘change in perspective,’ ‘transformation’? There a lot of more positive words that can go with cancer, not just doom and death.

Not talking about cancer can be devastating – probably the most powerful memory I have about my experience is that I remember after my initial diagnosis from my doctor going home to my husband and when I told him and the look of fear in his eyes, and then he shut down. I remember that they said I could terminate my pregnancy and that I had every reason to, because my pregnancy would escalate the cancer, and I remember thinking, ‘what do I do? This will be the last chance to have a child because they are going to give me a hysterectomy’. What do I do?  And I again.

The look on my husband’s face and his inability to even respond to me and I told nobody. And so I carried that burden with me, and I am sure that wasn’t healthy. I couldn’t even have the conversation about terminating my child or not, because I didn’t want to reach out to anyone, because I didn’t want to see the fear again in somebody else’s eyes. And in those days, when you said the word cancer, you were met with silence. So I didn’t tell even my own mother or anybody until after my surgeries. And then of course when I was in the hospital, people started to come to visit. And I put on a very brave face so that I could start to deal with the fear, because the fear I saw in other people’s eyes put fear back in me. But at least by then, I had gone through the process. Keeping silent in a way it had saved me because I could pretend that it wasn’t happening because nobody was talking about it. I fitted into the psyche of that era: “don’t speak about it, it doesn’t exist, let’s pretend everything is ok, just move forward”. Then at night-time, in the shower, you cry your eyes out.

I didn’t really tell anyone about my illness and I was in the hospital for about six or seven weeks. When I came out of the hospital, I asked my Mum to take care of me, so of course I opened up to her. I never told my daughters until they were 18 years old. I just didn’t want them to be afraid that I was going to die. I did not want to put that fear into them. And it was me, not them, who was preventing myself from telling them. I always used the excuse that they were not old enough, and I didn’t want them to fear, but at the same time I did want them to be proactive about cancer screening, so it was one of those challenges that I told myself: ‘I really have to tell them.’ And two of my children have been vaccinated against Human Papilloma Virus, and now they all regularly go for Pap smears. What I realized was that if I had had the courage to address it earlier, it is not that they would have gone earlier for Pap smears, but we could have had the conversations that we had when I did eventually tell them. But my daughters have taken the situation on board, and nobody is afraid. I think the blessing in waiting to tell them is that it was 22 years later and they have only known me as a very healthy person, and now they understand the need to be proactive. As for everybody else, they avoided me. I lost contact with quite a few people afterward my illness. And I think some of my girlfriends, they were just fearful, because I was so young and healthy. That was the main thing: I was not a sickly person. I was healthy and had brilliant births.

But what the experience of illness has done for me is pave the course of my life since that time. The choices that I have made in development, in self-development and professional development have their basis in understanding and going through my journey. And my PhD is in metaphysics, and I am very keen on learning about epigenetics, which is basically the full understanding that your cells are a reflection of your environment and not only your DNA, and so that is why they change. The internalization of fear, and not taking care of yourself, has an effect on your genes too, which is fearful but empowering as well – it is fearful because you ask yourself ‘did I do this to myself’ but it is an empowering idea as well because whatever has happened to me, I have the power to change that environment. So therefore, again, having that supportive, nurturing, caring environment versus having that fearful environment is important, and that fearful environment includes everybody else’s fear. And fear is quite toxic, and that can affect you too. That could affect your genes.

When I went for my surgeries, I was courageous. I took a breath and I went in there feeling strong and I felt courageous. So I think the whole spiritual aspect to illness is faith, how strong faith is, what colour it is and what it looks like to you, and how you can turn that into a physical element that walks you through that journey.

My illness made me a much better person and it gave me a purpose in life – when I look at all the things that I had been planning prior to my illness, and what my life has been over the years, everything was about learning about care and preventative medicine. I did a bachelor’s degree in alternative medicine. A housewife with three kids – who would have thought it? I studied Ayurveda in India. Who would have thought that a housewife would have done that, and I met the most incredible people who came my way? And I can look back and see that every single thing that I did without a plan in reality led me to getting a PhD, to being in Qatar to build the women’s wellness centre, to being connected, and to  finally after 27 years being able to finally tell my story.

Even in my 5th year being cancer-free, I was sweating and panicking – what if it has come back? This is interesting because you would not do that with any other disease. All of our terminology characterizes this disease as a beast, and once it has you in its grip, it is going to seize you, but if we could change the dialogue to an attitude of ‘let’s see how healthy you are’ or ‘your blood cells are fantastic today’. If we switched our ways of approaching cancer and reframed everything, for example we might say things like ‘let’s see if we can add you to our three-year list of cancer-free living’, that would be a very different conversation about the disease, rather than saying ‘let’s see if it’s come back’ or ‘let’s see if you are still in remission.’

I think that the medical profession could reframe the way it talks about cancer with patients. For example, changing phrases like ‘I am so sorry, but I think we need to see you…” or ‘we will only call you if there is something wrong’ – in simple terms, what the patient hears is, ‘we will only call you if you have cancer’ and you get a miscall, and you get upset and you are waiting and waiting anxiously. Make the experience of going in for a check-up more positive, so I will want to come back. Instead of telling patients ‘you only have 2 months to live,’ why not tell them that the medical system will do the best it can, send them home and tell them to focus on the quality of their life, their diet.

 

 

 

 

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(QCS) Concludes “You can do it” for prostate cancer awareness

Qatar Cancer Society (QCS) Concluded “You can do it “campaign to raise awareness about the most common cancers among men especially prostate   cancer which is the third most common cancers in Qatar according to Qatar National Registry (QNCR) – Ministry of Public Health 2016.

QCS charity has launched “you can do it ” awareness campaign via its electronic platforms Within the framework of the preventive measures to limit the spread of Novel coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) , by broadcasting awareness messages and videos related to men’s health and the most common cancer between them especially prostate cancer  , in addition several virtual workshops have been launched targeting many institutions, ministries, hotels, schools, universities, and health institutions , and an awareness workshop for QCS’s employees through “Your Health in Your Hand” program .

Many institutions and agencies in Qatar participated in the campaign that aims to raise public awareness of men’s health especially prostate cancer, ways to prevent it and the importance of early detection of prostate cancer especially that about 1 man in 9 will be diagnosed with prostate cancer during his lifetime (American Cancer Society 2020) , the second most common cancer in men worldwide (World Cancer Research Fund, 2018,   and the third most common cancers in Qatar according to Qatar National Registry (QNCR) – Ministry of Public Health 2016.

 

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Rona : Don’t lose hope to win your battle against cancer

The first question Ronaasked was, “am I going to die?” it was July 2, 2019. I was alone in Qatar and had just been diagnosed with Stage 4 metastatic breast cancer.

My family was in the Philippines, which is where I am from, and not only was I all alone in Qatar, I was the breadwinner, Illness was not acceptable. my oncologist prepared a treatment plan for me and because I wanted to live and I wanted to fight, I listened very carefully for what he wanted me to do and I followed everything. This is my story:

Before moving to Qatar, I lived in Bahrain from 2017 to 2019. I felt like there was something wrong earlier in 2019, but when I went to the doctor in Bahrain he told me it was just a hormonal imbalance and it was normal. So I just took it. I didn’t have the chance to come to the hospital so my disease progressed.

In 2019 I got a job in Doha. even before I got my diagnosis, I already expected that I might have cancer, maybe even stage 4. I had all the signs: a lump, oozing blood, foul smell, and discoloration. Once I got settled in, I went directly to the hospital. I had waited for so long and the first time I stepped into the emergency room and they put the patient bracelet on my wrist I was in tears.

At Hamad they gave me a mammogram and biopsy, then I had a CT scan. They were very thorough and finally I got a diagnosis, the doctors at the hospital explained that Stage 4 metastatic breast cancer (MBC) is invasive, which means that although the cancer started in my breast it had “metastasized” or spread beyond my breast and nearby lymph nodes to other parts of my body, like my bones and liver. the cancer team wanted me to go for six cycles of chemotherapy. After that my treatment plan included surgery and radiation.

On that day it was impossible for me to fully consider my diagnosis and what I was facing. I also wondered about the price of all this treatment. thankfully, Qatar Cancer Society exists. they gave a donation to fund my battle with cancer.

In spite of my doubts, I told myself the fight would start now,  I was very thankful to God that he gave me a chance to fight, to live. he directed people to help me and I am so thankful to them.

My treatment began right away, I had my first chemotherapy session that same month and I had a bad reaction. the medication I was given would make me shake. I had a bad reaction to the second cycle as well. and then every time I had chemo they would send me to the hospital for four or five days because I would be very sick. my white blood cell count would drop, sometimes to critical levels.

During chemo I often felt like I was suffocating, they couldn’t change my medication; however, they could minimize it. By the third, fourth, fifth, sixth cycles of chemo I had no more reactions. After six cycles of chemotherapy and I was done. The chemo was really hard; emotionally it’s just grueling. I don’t know why but I was always crying, imagine: there is no pain but it’s like you want to cry and cry and cry , you’re exhausted. You can’t eat. at the clinic where patients take chemotherapy, there is a big room with curtain dividers, sometimes I would draw, sometimes I would just listen to music, I met another Filipina patient there, who like me didn’t tell her family everything at first.

When I finally did tell my family, it was one of the hardest parts about my cancer journey, Coming out to them with my diagnosis radically altered our relationship. we became closer, before I told them, we would never speak every day. Instead, if there was time I would call them or they would call me, but now they were worried, and every day they were calling me, asking how I felt. I would say, “really fine. Don’t worry,” my grandmother was especially concerned because she is old now. It’s strange. I’m the only person in the family with breast cancer. I underwent the genetic test for the breast cancer gene and it was negative.

Although the chemotherapy was tough, I often felt stronger than before. the doctors would joke with me, they would say ,“you’re just pretending to have cancer!” because I kept myself upbeat and never really looked sick. I had the feeling that I was still blessed because Allah loved me.

I know very well that it’s hard for a stage 4 cancer patient to survive, but I stayed positive; I just acted normal. I would tell myself, “I don’t have any illness. I am the same person I was before this. I need to stay happy,” I did miss my eyebrows though. I really love makeup and fashion; creating art and doing makeovers are great joys for me.

Also I sometimes felt that I wanted to visit some places and do things that I had never tried in my life before,  I wanted to experience crazy things like surfing and mountain climbing and have some extraordinary adventure before my life came to an end.

But more than anything I would remember my four kids. they are still small and don’t understand everything, I started to think, how will they go to school? How will they eat? where will they live? my husband is not a stable provider, and I was raised by my grandmother, because my mother went abroad to work, my parents were just people that I saw on social media, never in person. That meant I knew what it was like not to have someone beside you when you are growing up, and what it’s like to live in different houses. It’s really hard to deal with, and that was the first thing that came to my mind—I didn’t want my kids to be separated from each other and grow up in different places, my children stay with my grandmother and I rent a small house for them and give them what they need. They were what I held onto throughout my treatment, they were what I lived for.

Once my chemo finished in December, I knew the following month I would have the next stage of my treatment—surgery, the day of my surgery was supposed to be January 29, 2020. On January 25th, I was at work when the breast clinic coordinator called me and said that the doctor wanted me to come in the evening for admission. She told me to come that night because the next day would be my surgery. It was a really shocking moment, but I was excited too because I had been waiting for the surgery a long time and I knew this was a significant part of my treatment. They completely removed one breast. I accepted this and more than anything I still felt lucky because I was alive.

After my surgery the medical team was amazed because about two hours post-surgery I strolled down to the coffee shop, I started to move around like I was normal and nothing happened. I joked to the nurses that “oh, so forever really does mean nothing! Even my breast left me!” we all had a good laugh about that. I stayed in the hospital for three days to give my body time to recover.

Throughout everything I tried to stay happy, I would sing. I would video blog, my vlog is about my cancer journey and about all aspects of my treatment: injections, life in the hospital (the food is pretty good!), treatments, and how people helped me, I have become mature enough and learned how to deal with the situation positively so I wanted to show people that even though I had MBC, I could still do so much and that it wasn’t the end of the world. We have to fight and not lose hope.

Cancer is not a one-person journey and I am thankful for the help I received. My auntie and grandmother were there for me, my friends in Qatar would take me out to the sea because I am a nature lover, Also my work supported me , they didn’t let me get tired, they gave me low-stress assignments and sick leave. I am also so thankful to the Qatar Cancer Society for their support.

My faith has helped me a lot too because if not for my faith, I might think that “I can’t survive this ,”but I know Allah loves me and that’s why he gave me this challenge,  So I trusted him. I trusted that this would pass and I had to be strong. If I had to advise anyone going through the same thing, I would say, “remember this is just temporary. One day it will end. Just be positive and stay strong and have faith in God.

On April 12, 2020, I completed my radiotherapy treatment, the histology reported no residual malignancy in my breast tissue or lymph nodes. I am now cancer free.

Now I would tell the doctors a message “just be patient with your patients. Try to give them hope, and My wish for myself for ten years from now would be to be able to help people who are in the situation I was in.

 

Rona Mahera Elsherif’s vlog can be found at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCl2EJYa8L-EP4HsbgcMJ1_A/featured

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Checks in and free virtual activities ‘ Blossom “campaign

Qatar Cancer Society (QCS) successfully concluded its breast cancer awareness activities, held under the theme ‘Blossom’. This came as part of marking October as the International Month of Breast Cancer.
The campaign targeted all segments of the society to raise the awareness about breast cancer and the importance of early detection.
In all, 75 virtual activities were organised targeting educational institutions such as schools and universities, as well as ministries, banks, private companies and hotels.
The campaign witnessed honouring the winners of the ‘Blossom Challenge’ competition, who were able to lose weight by adapting a healthy diet. The competition targeted 40 women of different ages, in cooperation with the Perf Up Center, and they were given vouchers and luxury watches sponsored by Marhaba Jewellery.
As many as 37 students from a number of schools in Qatar, including 20 students from the MES School, participated in the campaign.
About 400 ultrasound breast examinations were provided free of cost in cooperation with Naseem Al Rabeeh Medical Center to encourage early detection.

QCS also tied up several institutions, such as Aspire and the Qatar Triathlon Federation, in their efforts to organise breast cancer awareness events.
Many sponsors supported QCS’ Blossom campaign, including Talabat and Fingertips. Spar Qatar donated one riyal on the purchase of some of their products while Lulu Hypermarket allocated a percentage of the sales of more than 500 items to QCS. Kholoud Pharmacies donated 5 percent of the sales amount on some of the pink products at its 22 branches. Qatar Airways organised a donation campaign through a charity bazaar on its website, while Ooredoo enabled donations to QCS campaign through Nojoom points.
Many Doha landmarks also joined the ‘Blossom’ campaign by lighting themselves up in pink, such as Al Shola Hotel, Msheireb City by Msheireb Properties and Ras Abu Aboud Street by Ashghal.

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Steve prostate cancer survivor : a ray of hope emerges from darkness

Steve, an English professor at the Community College of Qatar, describes his cancer experience in a positive light. His journey began when he noticed he had some issues with voiding and went to see a doctor at a local clinic for a check-up. Thinking it would just be an enlarged prostate (non-threatening enlargement of the prostate gland), since it was a common condition in men his age, Steve had no worries. The doctor, however, requested a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test. The test results indicated a high PSA. Steve then went to see a urologist who did further testing, including an MRI and a biopsy. The tests confirmed that he had a cancerous lesion on his prostate, but much to Steve’s relief, the doctor thought that the cancer likely was not an aggressive type.  Sadly, Steve’s relief did not last long. His biopsy specimen was sent on to a pathologist in Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) for confirmation. The second opinion indicated that the cancer was actually more aggressive and dangerous than initially thought. The news left Steve devastated.

Steve, living alone in Qatar, away from home and support, made coping with the diagnosis of prostate cancer that much more difficult. “It was just me, the world and death,” is how Steve described this brief but dark time in his life.  He did not have much of a support system or anybody he could really talk to in Doha.  However, this darkness was soon to end.  He came across a friend of a friend whom he had met a few years back.  He described this person as very kind and empathetic. Seeing as she was a yoga instructor, she encouraged Steve to start practicing yoga and to change his lifestyle.  Steve was more than happy to live a healthier lifestyle: “I wanted to be disciplined. I wanted to make every effort.” He stopped drinking and even stopped smoking; “I thought I would never be able to stop smoking, but it wasn’t hard once my mind was made up. I was so determined to adjust my thinking, to adjust my way of life, to live in a healthy way.” Steve also cut out meat from his diet and lost 10 kilos. On top of cleansing his body by changing his diet and letting go of harmful habits like smoking, he began cleansing his mind by dedicating a certain time every night for yoga, meditation, and contemplation.

As time passed and the date of the surgery got closer and closer, Steve continued to prepare himself. He started educating himself on his prostate disease: “I read like crazy. I read and I read and I read… every imaginable aspect of this cancer.” As part of his pre-surgical orientation, he was introduced to three other men who were going to have the same operation at the same time.  Steve connected with one man in particular in his surgical cohort. They would talk about the role of spirituality and shared their feelings and experiences together.  Being among a group of people going through the same experience as he made him feel a bit more at ease.

Albeit very painful for a couple of days afterwards, the surgery went smoothly and Steve recovered very quickly without any side effects and was released from the hospital three days later.  As Steve recovered in his apartment, he took on a new hobby: painting with acrylics. This was quite unusual and surprising for him since he never had an urge to paint in his life. Painting became his escape from his otherwise dull environment. He described painting as a wonderful outlet to express himself because there was a lot going on inside of him.  He loved blending bright colors and felt a tremendous rejuvenation explaining that “I needed to do something creative. I needed color around me.” He redecorated his entire apartment making it a lot more interesting and colorful. He changed the rugs, some  furniture, and even put some of his own paintings on the walls. Steve also developed a close affinity with plants and constantly wanted to be around them. He would take frequent walks to local gardens and let the plants bathe him with their energy. “It was something spiritual… something from God. I felt like I was tapped on the shoulder: ‘Pay attention. You have this gift of life. Use it.”

Steve’s story is a very inspiring one. It teaches you that strength comes from within, a ray of hope emerges from darkness , although the presence of family and friends in your life at times of hardship can add a lot of comfort, all you really need is yourself. You are capable of changing your life,  Steve’s advice to cancer patients is to be proactive, “Take control of your own health, You can change your life ,  be actively involved in your disease, its treatment, and especially the healing because nobody cares more than you do. It’s your life and it’s your health.”

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Fatima Jomha – Breast cancer survivor :You would survive and tell your story

The ultrasound is not enough to rule out malignancy and a biopsy is needed”. This is how the story of Fatima Jomha, a 33-year-old breast cancer survivor, started.  In April 2017, the biopsy revealed cancerous cells.

“I was lost. I was told that I have cancer, but I didn’t know what that means. You know the meaning of cancer, you know it because you have heard about it before, but when it happens to you it is different. I was surprised and shocked to hear the surgeon’s words. He said it straight away in a tone that lacked compassion: ‘you have cancer.’ I didn’t have a family history of cancer and when you don’t have it you tend to not think about it. You think it can happen to other people but not you, but it happens, and this is where the initial shock comes from. It was emotionally hard to accept the diagnosis. I started crying. I was crying without thinking because of all the things that you hear about cancer. I was in denial. I went from one doctor to another to another hoping for something different. But this is how you come to accept. Then you just have to rely on God and what he has planned for you and be the strongest you can for your family and your kids.

Going through this journey, you start asking, who else is going through this? You start asking in your community and they answer you. They tell you the success stories of women  who went through the same circumstances as you and they survived and you also survive and tell your story to others, You find strength in other people’s stories. This is what I’m trying to do now for the newly diagnosed patients because I know it is hard, but just know that there is hope and there is always a light at the end of the tunnel. I know that you don’t think this all will pass right away. This is because when you are going through it and you are feeling that tiredness and the transition from being a person who is not going through these procedures to a person who is going every single day to the hospital – that’s a big thing. I used to never go to the hospital and then I had to go; for example, during radiation, every single day and then chemo, and through chemo you have to be very careful and so initially going through this process you don’t have the strength.

My message to everyone going through this is to find a person who you can confide in and hopefully they will give you the strength to go on. This is one of the reasons why I’m happy with the Qatar Cancer Society because they have an advocacy program that provides support to patients dealing with breast cancer.

For me, my family were the source of my strength. Without my family’s support I don’t think I could have gone through it. My husband was very supportive, and my family came all the way from Canada to support me – my mom, dad, all my sisters and brothers were with me if I needed anything. They would prepare my food and take care of my nutritious diet because you will need somebody to help you be the strongest and actually fight any side effect and anything that would happen along the way through chemo and radiation because your body is weaker and you need help in every way: psychologically and physically and everything, including your diet. They were there for me when I went to procedures and I needed people to take care of my kids who were too young to know the meaning of what was happening. They would see the things around them. For example, if they saw my hair falling out, they would be scared and say, ‘please mom don’t show us that you don’t have hair, just cover it’. But you just have to teach them that there is something happening, and you have to deal with it and move on because life is full of ups and downs and this is one of the downs. You have to learn how to teach them that your mom is sick right now just for that period of time and that she will be better. During the treatment, I felt like I can’t be there for my children because I was weak and not feeling well, but in my mind it was only for a period of time and I’m going to move on from this – it’s just going to be in the past. You cannot keep thinking about it and asking why this happened to me, because when this happens, you have to go through the procedure and hopefully through prayers, diet and everything else you go through it and it becomes something in the past. I know that when someone tells you that you have cancer you think that you don’t have much time to live, but right now how they treat cancer is different than how they used to treat it a long time ago and they are managing all the side effects well.

Don’t think that cancer is a death warning; just do what your doctor is telling you to do as it all backed up by research, so try to find a doctor that you feel comfortable with and one who gives you the confidence that this treatment is the right one for you and always try to be strong for yourself, for your children and for your family.

When my doctor first proposed the treatment plan to me, I refused the chemotherapy, but they said you have to do it because you’re young and the cancer is aggressive, and you have to do surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. I agreed to everything, but not to the chemo therapy and the doctor started to laugh and said if I was his child, he would definitely persuade me to do chemo because it gives you a high rate of survival and it gives you the chance to live longer and he presented to me the statistics related to the type and stage of my cancer and after that I agreed and I did everything. It was not easy and every time that the nurse came to give me the chemo I would start to cry because I felt hopeless at that time, but she gave me hope. She would say that she sees cancer patients all the time and that I would get through this. When you’re in the treatment room, you are fighting all these feelings. As a patient, I started asking myself what is happening to me, am I going to live, is this really going to work? I had too many feelings. But I came to realize that if you’re happier and more relaxed while taking your treatment, it will work better for you. Something that somebody told me is that God chooses the people that he knows can withstand this problem and not just anybody, and that this is a test for that person and so if they pass the test, they get closer to God and gain more deeds. This thought kept me going. I tried to think of it as a gift from God and not a curse.

In the first year after finishing the surgery, chemo and radiation – with all of this being new to your body, your body is trying to get used to it. What I learned is that when you’re in the moment you feel like you’re going to feel like this for the rest of your life – going to feel awful and with all the medications and the chemicals that they put in you, but then there is a transition phase that happened to me and it happens to all cancer patients and it is when you’re done with all the treatments and you’re trying to find yourself and going back to your normal self this is really hard – because your body is fighting all the new things that happened to it and you’re trying to find yourself and you are thinking I have to get back to how I used to be before – you just have to find a place where you’re comfortable and it is not easy and it can last for 1 or 2 years, but when you get there that is it, that is the beginning of your life again. There is a light at the end of the tunnel. You will feel better. And every time you think that things will not get better, just remember that it will – but your body needs time to get used to all the things that happened to you and when you’re past that stage, just work on yourself to become the person that you want to be and have a plan for yourself and work on your goals – because when you reach those goals you’ll feel even better and you’ll feel like a normal person again. This is what happened to me. I went through this transition stage and now I am back to normal. At this point I am a public speaker and raising awareness. In the past I wouldn’t think that I would be doing that, but now after the transition period and the fighting I am here, and I am spreading hope to people.

The thing that I’m most proud of is that I emerged from being a cancer patient to breast cancer advocate and this is my biggest achievement in my whole life. I’m a pharmacist, but this is my biggest achievement. I am now doing research in the field of breast cancer.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Saleh Al Hamad Al Mana Co. supports QC’S awareness efforts

Qatar Cancer Society (QCS) has received a kind donation from Saleh Al Hamad Al Mana Co. the exclusive agent for Nissan in Qatar, a Nissan X-Trail vehicle to support the campaigns  and awareness efforts led by the Society to raise  public awareness on cancer, ways to prevent it, and importance of early detection.

Dr. Dera Al Dosari, Director of Resources Development Department at QCS, thanked Saleh Al Hamad Al Mana Co. for the kind gesture of supporting the Society in the field of cancer awareness, stressing the importance of the joint efforts to serve the community and fight cancer, and in line with Qatar National Vision 2030 to focus on the human factor and invest in human health.

He affirmed that QCS will continue its efforts towards achieving its vision in the community by making Qatar a leader in cancer prevention and control, as well as its mission to achieve these goals through working with partners such as Saleh Al Hamad Al Mana Co. to spread awareness in the community and support, empower, and advocate for individuals living with cancer. He added that during the last interval, QCS witnessed a remarkable development and became one of the pioneering institutions in this field under the leadership of Dr. Khalid Bin Jabr Al Thani, who is doing his best towards constant improvement.

Commenting on this occasion, Mr. Nassim Mourani, General Manager – Automotive Group at Saleh Al Hamad Al Mana Co. said, “Social responsibility is one of our core values and our way to give back to our community. This partnership with Qatar Cancer Society reiterates this commitment and Saleh Al Hamad Al Mana Co. will continue to support such initiatives that reflects our brand identity and ethos.”

Both organizations wished that all companies in Qatar to join hands to spread awareness about cancer and provide support to people living with the disease.

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Abdulrahman : this journey made me stronger than I think

Abdulrahman is a typical 13-year-old Qatari boy whose life changed dramatically when he was eight years old, Which tells us his story, saying:

It was a month after my birthday, and I was playing with my cousins and my brother (at my grandfather Yousuf’s house) when my mom brought me to the Pediatric Emergency Centre at Al-Saad for what we both thought was a regular physical checkup and blood work since I was falling sick continually (with a high fever) and more than any other children in my family. (The doctor wanted to send me home with antibiotics but my mother had a feeling that something was wrong and insisted with the doctor to get blood labs done as I looked pale, week, and fatigue) I told my cousins that I would be back very soon, and we could continue to play football when I returned. Little did I know that would be the last time that I would see my family for another 3 years.

My mother and I had arrived to PEC and expecting similar results as previous visits, we were waiting patiently when the nurse and doctor told that we had to be moved to an Isolation room. Being an 8 year old, I didn’t quite understand what was happening around me but this was also the case for my mother as well as the doctor didn’t explain why we had to move.

As the nurse came in to (check on my vital signs), my mother asked her if we were placed in the isolation room to keep others safe, since she thought I had an infectious disease. When the nurse replied, “it’s to keep your son safe from others”, this reply came as a shock to both my mother and me.

Within an hour, I was in an ambulance on my way to Hamad General Hospital, still not knowing why all this was happening to me. Once I arrived at the hospital, another group of nurses tended to me and started (a) another blood transfusion containing platelets. Even with all this chaos and uncertainty happening around us, my mother kept her composure and was my light in the dark. My mother had called her father (my grandfather), and told him of this situation, which caused him to cry, since his friend who was diagnosed with cancer and had undergone a similar procedure (the symptoms she was explaining to him that I was having confirmed to him that I had cancer.

My mother, extremely frustrated, as nobody was giving us any answers, had googled all the symptoms and came to a conclusion that I had Leukemia (pale, fatigue, high fever, bruises, low platelets, low ANC, etc.). This conclusion was met with hesitancy from the doctors, and both my mother and I spent the entire (night) in Hamad Hospital without knowing why we were there. The next day, when the doctors came in for their morning rounds, my mother confronted them and asked if I had leukemia–but she was met with more uncertainty from the doctors. (the doctors had excused himself and left the room. After a few hours, my mom was asked by the doctor to step out of my room and in the hallway was told that they usually don’t give this type of information to a lady without her family present but as I have already know, yes they are suspecting that my son has leukemia).  After enduring a couple more days full of tests in Hamad Hospital, (That day they had to confirm that I had leukemia, so I had to undergo an LP to take a sample of my bone marrow to check for cancer cells. My mother and family were very nervous and praying but my mom never should be sign that something serious was wrong with me.). (the next day, the doctors had a meeting with my family and informed that that) I was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) and started on chemotherapy immediately to save my life – this was only 2 days after I had left my home for what had seemed to be a regular checkup would change my life forever. At this point, I was getting agitated and just wanted to know when I could leave the hospital and go play with my cousins again but. At that point my mother explained to me in simple terms about leukemia and what we were going to have to do to get rid of this disease for example that there was a problem with my blood and they platelets and blood transfusion they were given me is like soldiers going into my body to fight the bad guys). My mother didn’t want to leave me in the dark regarding my condition (and strongly believed that it is very important that I understand what is happening) but at the same time she didn’t want to scare me with big words­–I was a child after all.

Within a week after this chaos, my father, brother, grandma Ameena, mother and I were flown to the Children’s hospital in Washington, DC, (accompanied with a doctor and nurse on the plane as I was still very sick and hooked up on various medication) and immediately as we walked into the hospital room, we were swarmed by a room full of doctors and social workers (keep in mind this was the evening and my mother was exhausted from the long flight). This was the start of my 3-year medical journey (in the USA). I was (sad, confused, and wanted to see my family) miserable during most of this time, despite my family’s strong support and my mother staying by my side the entire time. I hadn’t seen my school friends, siblings and cousins, for a long time and I felt emotionally and literally isolated. I only had my mother and grandmother as my only constants and that was the sole reason that I was able to get through this illness and stay strong.

I don’t remember much of what happened in the hospital (since most of the time I was strong pain medication) but some of the most painful moments were when they had to place a Broviac Catheter in my body–I remember being in excruciating pain and not talking to my mother. I felt like I was no longer a boy and they had changed me into a robot. That period was the longest time that I had ignored my mom. Then (my uncle Ahmed) one of my uncles called me from Qatar and pointed out that Ironman’s arc reactor on his chest looked just like my catheter, and he told me that Ironman’s reactor was the basis of his strength in the same way that my (Broviac)catheter was my strength. My Uncle’s words helped me to change how I looked at the hospital procedures; the procedures no longer scared me, but they were still painful, just not as scary as before.

When I was in the hospital, I lost a lot of my hair due to the chemotherapy. Chunks of my hair would be falling into my cereal, ( and I would wake up with hair all over my pillow even in my mouth sometimes and that really frustrated me) and then (my uncle Abdulla) another of my Uncles Facetimed me and told me about John Cena and The Rock, two of my favorite wrestlers who were bald (and that the strongest people in the world are the people in the miliatary and they all shave their heads). He said that being bald made them strong, and this conversation helped me a lot during that time. I even let the Chief of Hematology Oncology in the hospital to shave my head. (and I was happy with that)

Besides the hard times, I also remember the fun that I had in the hospital with the nurses who took care of me and the hospital clowns and ballet dancers who would often visit. I remember (during my bone morrow transplant I was not allowed many visitors and my interactions with the nurses wasn’t allowed anymore except with my assigned nurse) one time when interaction with the hospital staff was decreasing, so my mother created a game called “Guess Haman’s ANC”, where the hospital staff would guess my Absolute Neutrophil Count every day. The closest guesses would get prizes. This encouraged the staff to walk by my room and wave or smile or talk to me, which lifted my spirits (she would print a paper and stick on my door and open the curtains so that I could see everyone’s excitement). It was this community spirit which really helped me, and my family get through this ordeal.

I was able to be friends with some of the children in the hospital, specially this Saudi boy who was admitted at the same time as me, but there was an incident when one of my friends had to get her legs amputated which was a major shock to me, and that event stopped me from talking to any of the children in the hospital. I still don’t understand why I did that, but I felt more comfortable talking to the adults in the hospital after that incident.)

I could not go to school during chemotherapy as it was taking a major toll on my body but I did have tutors who would come to the  tutor would come to my home whenever I was there and no matter how sick I felt my mother made sure I kept my brain working) hospital to teach me. Even at moments when I wouldn’t be able to speak, I was still learning, thanks to my mom. I hated every second of it then, and I would try to hide under my blankets and ask my mother to make the tutor leave, but now I understand the importance of continuing my education. My mom said that continuing my education was designed to make me feel that this part of my life was temporary and that this too shall pass. I didn’t believe in that idea then but I do now.

After most of my chemotherapy cycles were over, we rented a huge house and moved into it instead of the hospital as it wasn’t necessary to stay there. My mother had rented a house with a basement and turned it into my personal playground – I had video games and a huge space to play football – it was great! But this didn’t last long: more labs were done for me which revealed that there were still cancer cells in the blood – the chemotherapy wasn’t working as well as we thought it would and the doctors found out that I had a 5q deletion in my genetic profile, which means that I had to have a bone marrow transplant. Thus I had to have 2 more cycles of chemo before the transplant could be done, so we had to move back to the hospital.

The search for an HLA (human leukocyte antigen) match was probably the worst period for my mother as our relatives and friends back in Qatar weren’t aware of this and even when they were tested, no one turned out to be my match (even the international bank didn’t have a good match for me). One day, the doctors informed us that a mother in Texas had donated her newborn’s cord blood which surprisingly matched my HLA: I had an unrelated stem cell donor in Texas!

The next steps before the transplant were the worse. I had to endure full body radiation twice a day (since it is rare that kids undergo this type of radiation I had to go to an adult hospital via ambulance – I didn’t mind the ambulance ride it had a TV!)  and then (one more cycle of chemo but it was strong on my body and the doctor’s told my mom that they need to bring my body to near death as possible so that my body doesn’t reject the donor’s cells) more cycles of chemo before I was ready for the transplant. Then came the complications – (Acute and Cronic GVHD in the gut and skin) multiple rejections of the transplanted bone marrow. Your body recognizes that the new bone marrow is foreign and tries to fight it. Hence I was placed on heavy amounts of steroids to combat the rejections and I was given strict guidelines : everything I ate had to be cooked thoroughly, and I had an hour to eat it and to drink a bottle of water within an hour as well –if it had been left alone more than that, it was no longer safe for me to drink. (I was not allowed to eat any fresh fruits, vegetables or anything that was not cooked at home for a long time. But due to my GVHD and other complications I didn’t eat for 6 months and was living on TPN 24 hours) During this hard time, my mother made sure I had a psychologist so that my mental health was taken care of as well.

After most of the serious medical therapy was over and the doctors allowed me to go to school, I was enrolled in a public school in the USA. I had mixed feelings about going back to school. I had missed playing and having friends my own age but at the same time, this was a different environment and I didn’t exactly look like a normal kid. The steroids that I was on had caused a lot of weight gain, so I did face some bullying at the public school. Other students wouldn’t allow me to play football, my most favorite sport in the world, with them and even the teachers didn’t seem to understand my situation. The Physical Education teacher was getting frustrated that I couldn’t run during the PE sessions due to my weight. This didn’t bother me as much as it did my mother. I just told her that it was ok and I played football in my head – little did I know at that time, that this was a coping mechanism I had developed during my bedridden time in the hospital. I was taken out of the school soon after since the students or the teachers weren’t accommodating, and the next school called BASIS Independent Mclean (a private school) was more understanding and accompanying with my condition and requirements. Instead of making me feel left out, they made me stand out amongst the others, and I had the opportunity to share my story which was welcomed by all, students and teachers alike. I made a lot of friends there and felt like I was returning back to my life.

Besides support from the school, the community spirit in the hospital played a huge role in my recovery. Organizations such as “Make a Wish” gave me the chance to meet John Cena and support groups for mothers such as PANDA would come up with non-medical solutions for issues such as nausea or sleeping difficulties. I remember receiving a ‘magic ceramic in the shaped of a ball stone’ from them which was to help with nausea. Now I realize that the stone was probably not magical at all, but it helped me at that time to believe in such a thing. Additionally, there was a couple who volunteered to take pictures of all the kids in the hospital, giving us all a photoshoot – it was this support which broke the stigma and feeling of hopelessness which surrounds the kids and their families. Removing stigma about cancer is something that I feel could be improved in Qatar, which is what Qatar Cancer Society is trying to achieve.

 

When we all came back to Qatar after the transplant, I have to every 6 months Abdulrahman had to return to DC to continue his treatment and for check-ups. Alhamdallah on the 12th of June 2020 we celebrated 5 years since his bone marrow transplant – 5 years cancer-free!  my mother made sure I joined QCS so that I could share my story with others who might be in the same position as me. We expected to see Qatari children and their families to be in the support groups, but the association had only expats which shows that this is still a taboo topic in this society. Hence in an attempt to empower others, my mother arranged me to make a video taking about my experience with cancer, to show that if I can get through this, so can they.

This whole journey has made me realize that I am stronger than I look or think and to appreciate the people around me as life is very unpredictable. I am very thankful for the doctors, nurses, social workers and everyone who supported me in Qatar and in the USA. I would also like to mention, “Be the Match” which is a bank to which anyone can donate their blood and help find someone like me an HLA match. If the mother in Texas hadn’t donated her newborn’s (cord) blood to the bank I wouldn’t have had a good transplant, and if more people in Qatar were aware of this bank, then I could have gotten a faster match and therefore a faster recovery. (since the HLA typing is based on ethnicity)

Last but not least, Abdel Rahman’s mother sent her message to the community saying “Cancer is given to us by God: children like my son have done nothing to acquire this, hence it shouldn’t be a taboo or haram to talk about it; more people should open up to this, so that we as a society can get comfortable and offer support to each other .

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QCS raise awareness of liver cancer by 4 languages

Qatar Cancer Society (QCS) concluded  “Protect Yourself” campaign to raise awareness of liver cancer that is the 7th highest cancer among both genders in Qatar and among all cancer death, liver cancer is the 2nd highest cancer among both genders. , according to Qatar National Cancer registry 2016 – the Ministry of Public Health  .The electronic campaign targeted workers who are among the groups most exposed to the risk factors causing this type of cancer by broadcasting educational videos in different languages, which are “Arabic, English, Urdu and Malayalam”, to target the largest possible number of audiences make them aware of disease, signs, warning symptoms, methods of prevention and early detection,Mr. Khalifa Haroun, social media influencer, participated in the campaign, who contributed to the campaign’s awareness role through his accounts on social media.

Mrs. Heba Nassar – Head of the Health Education Department at QCS  said –  the charity has launched this campaign via its electronic platforms  Within the framework of the preventive measures to limit the spread of Novel coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) , with the participation of a number of entities, including the Hamad Medical Corporation, Qatar Red Crescent, Syrian American Medical Center, Mowasalat

She stressed the importance of early detection of the disease and it is often hard to find liver cancer early because signs and symptoms often do not appear at an early stage. So, you should check with your doctor in a regular manner.

 The way of Prevention Summarized in avoid smoking ,avoid alcohol consumption , maintain healthy body weight , be physically active (exercise for at least 30 min/day, 5 days/week) , prevent infection with hepatitis B&C , get regular medical checkup , avoid breathing in or touching toxic chemicals. She added.

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Anthony .. Blood cancer survivor : Pay attention to the signs before it’s too late

Friday is the best day of the week, ply football game with family, eat together, laughing, smiles and joking all the time, what is a happy days .. But why my friend looking at me with amazement?

During this time Anthony found himself looking at his friends intently, and telling him, “Today your face looks more yellow than ever before, and he joked that he did not care, said“ Maybe it means that my face is tanned as a result of sun exposure which made it golden, but his friends  reminded him again that last month he was suffering from shortness of breath more than one time and his body was exhausted .. and they advised him that he should go to see the doctor.

At first Anthony laughed with his colleagues, but soon he understood the matter, wondering his condition, “But what if the matter was serious … and my face really tends to yellow? Then I have to go to the doctor, and indeed he went to the health center with his mother who stands next to him, saying “It must be a short visit that will not exceed thirty minutes,” and Anthony did not know at the time  would not lead him to his home again before three months spent between various laboratory tests and ultrasound examinations and other things, to know that it was not just anemia, to lead his intelligence spirit to search for Google even gets ready to hear the news that he did not expect, which is “having blood cancer”, and my message to everyone is to alert them to their body signs before it is too late.

It is now 2 am, my head is heavy, my body is tired, but I want to take a rest… I rest? … It is a dream, I woke up to the doctor’s sounds talking around me, explaining the diagnosis, discussing the signs and reviewing treatment options. And they said: You are still young, and full of energy, and strength, your body will be able to defeat cancer, you will overcome this condition and regain your health.

After hearing this news, what I read from google, I look around to see all my family standing beside me, my mother, my father … my sister, my uncle, my aunts and my cousins – everyone is there to encourage me.

Anthony began preparing for the first round of the chemotherapy phase, where his hair seemed to fall out, one hair after another. It is a difficult journey, but he has to adapt to it, as each session of chemotherapy takes some time to accept it and gradually adjusts to it, hoping that his hair follicles will grow again to spread hope In his future life and his victory over cancer.

He was feeling nauseous, and the stomach upset gradually increased until it reached the mouth. He became impatient and with weak physical strength, but he endured all these pains in order to return to his normal life again to build his physical muscles and his bright future that he derived from the warmth and tenderness of his family and the embrace of his father ,, this embrace returns his soul and soul .. Any person needs this love, warmth and tenderness to be full of strength and enthusiasm and raise his spirits.

At exactly five o’clock every morning a new story and innovative methods in which everyone around me master to help me get through these difficult times, “It is really difficult times.” At five o’clock every morning, taking a blood sample is the frequent thing that I get used to do every day, to let it slip with the help of Nurse Ibrahim He is my friend, companion, and guide throughout this journey, get ready to eat the “kibbeh” my mom prepared for me, because it is better than the usual hospital food. Then a contest is held with my sister to see who can drink a bottle of water faster than the other, if your goal is to drink 3 liters of water a day that needs a lot of creativity. This is followed by an exciting match with best friends in the FIFA game. It was never defeated. I enjoyed these beautiful things that bring me happiness and help me pass the time with more faith and courage.

During the six successive chemo sessions, it seemed to me that I was stronger, bigger and wiser, this was another chapter in life, and I started to feel better and return to my normal self, I had enough time to think about how to restore my normal life again after everything stopped, life goes on and did not end But it needs more, looking forward to your future, and building lasting long-term relationships with your friends and family; They are the ones who will help you regain your energy and brilliance. It is better to think about your school program and in which direction you will go, you have to think about the sky in which you will fly when you become a pilot, and do not let cancer eat you. Take this time to improve and think.

Oh yeah, it’s time to go to the gym

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