Between Pain and Hope: The Journey of Sheikha Al-Mannai with Cancer

My name is Sheikha Al-Mannai, and I am a television and radio presenter. I started my career as a teacher in 1995 and served as a school principal until 2016. After finishing my tenure as the principal of an independent school, I decided to travel abroad for leisure and to find a new passion. Little did I know that this journey would begin another, more challenging journey in my life.

The Initial Discovery of the Tumor

While staying abroad, I noticed a lump on my upper shoulder. At first, I thought it was just a bruise from hitting the swimming pool wall before my trip. However, the lack of any bruising made me concerned and prompted me to conduct a self-examination, a skill I had learned in medical courses I attended in the past. I felt a small, ball-like lump under my skin, but I ignored it, believing it would disappear over time.

The Diagnosis Journey

After four months of the lump’s appearance, I decided to visit an ultrasound specialist upon returning to Qatar. Although the lump had shrunk after taking the medications prescribed by the doctor, it reappeared, increasing my anxiety. I then went to the health center, which referred me to Hamad Hospital. The next day, I received a call from the hospital requesting that I schedule an appointment with an oncology specialist.

Examinations and Tests

The doctor began with a clinical examination and suspected a malignant tumor. He asked about my family’s medical history and whether I had children. After the initial review, I was referred to the surgery department to remove some lymph nodes for testing. It took two weeks to get the test results, and during that time, the days passed slowly and anxiously. When the results came in, it was confirmed that I had stage one breast cancer. I was in shock and cried, not out of fear of the disease, but out of fear for my late mother, knowing how scared and anxious she would have been for me.

Starting Treatment

When I informed my mother of the test results, I noticed the worry on her face. My doctor was a great support, explaining that I needed chemotherapy followed by surgery. He informed me about the stages of treatment and the challenges I might face, such as hair loss and weight loss. Despite the physical and emotional pain, I decided to hold on to hope and faith.

Family Support and Faith

I began chemotherapy at the National Center for Cancer Care and Research. The smell of the treatment caused nausea and made me feel fatigued. My father and my doctor accompanied me to every session, waiting for me throughout the treatment. After each session, they would ask if I wanted to eat, but the treatment made me nauseous, and I had no appetite. I moved in with my parents during the treatment due to the side effects. I received treatment every 21 days.

Psychological and Social Challenges

What hurt me the most was seeing my mother cry when I returned from treatment sessions, as she could smell the treatment mixed with my scent and sensed my mood changes. I requested to be transferred to a hospital in Houston to complete my treatment, so my mother wouldn’t see me in my sick state. My brother accompanied me on my treatment journey, and I always tried to show him my strength so he wouldn’t feel pity for me.

Life in Houston

I considered the time I spent in Houston one of the best periods of my life, despite the challenges of the illness. I did not stay in inpatient housing but in a home away from other patients because I didn’t want to feel pitied. I focused on exercising, swimming, cooking, and keeping myself busy with household chores. I would wake up at ten in the morning and start my day by cleaning the house and doing laundry. These small details meant a lot to me and made me feel a great sense of accomplishment instead of feeling sorry for myself.

New Challenges

One day, I decided to live without wearing a wig, which shocked my brother when he saw me. He cried and left the house, but I told him that I had accepted my condition that it was temporary and that my health would return to normal in nine months. Despite the difficulties, I insisted that my brother and I go out before my treatment sessions to enjoy the weather, knowing that I wouldn’t be able to do anything the day after the treatment.

Lessons Learned

During my treatment, I realized the true meaning of family and the importance of having them by my side. My mother and father would call me several times a day to check on me. Despite my mother’s severe anxiety and deteriorating mental health, I always tried to show her that I was fine. This experience brought me closer to my children and siblings and gave me a chance to re-evaluate my life.

Conclusion

After arriving in the United States, my life changed completely. I became more faithful and consistent in prayer, and reading the Quran. I realized the importance of enjoying simple moments and stepping away from the pressures of daily life. I learned to allocate time for myself to maintain my health and connection with God and to appreciate divine blessings. The experience affected every aspect of my life and made me view things positively.

I went through a difficult experience, but I learned a lot from it. I realized that relying on God gives a person extraordinary strength to face any challenge. I consider my illness a test from God to see my patience and endurance. I became more humble before God’s greatness and more aware of the value of life, health, and family. Praise be to God for everything.

 

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|QCS” Launches A Digital Platform ‘Wayyakum’for for Cancer Patient Treatment

In an innovative and forward-looking step to support cancer patients in Qatar, the Qatar Cancer Society “ QCS “ celebrated the launch of the first digital platform in the Gulf region named “Wayyakum.” This platform is dedicated to supporting the cost of cancer treatment. It provides a simplified and effective means for patients and their families to access the necessary financial support for treatment, thereby saving them the time and effort needed to focus on healing and improving their quality of life during this challenging phase.

The launch event was attended by several prominent figures in medicine, healthcare, charity, and humanitarian work from various institutions in Qatar, including the Regulatory Authority for Charitable Activities. This platform was established by its requirements and standards and has been linked to the “Sanadi” platform for organizing aid within Qatar, in collaboration with 23 partners from government and charitable institutions within the country, under the auspices of the Regulatory Authority.

On this occasion, HE. Sheikh Dr. Khaled bin Jaber Al Thani, Chairman of the Board of Directors of Qatar Cancer Society, expressed his great happiness and gratitude for attending this distinguished event, and witnessing the launch of the digital platform  “ Wayyakum.”  He stated, “The moment we are experiencing today represents a turning point in all our efforts to support cancer patients and their families through this pioneering digital platform in the Gulf region, reflecting our firm commitment to providing comprehensive and humane care for this category.” He emphasized the importance of collective action and collaboration to assist those in need in the face of disease.

He continued, saying, “I would like to thank everyone who contributed to the success of this event, including partners, supporters, and all those who supported this noble initiative. I would like to express special thanks to the Regulatory Authority for Charitable Activities.” He added, “The launch of the “  Wayyakum.”   platform reflects the commitment of Qatar Cancer Society to innovation and providing effective solutions to meet the needs of patients, making it a valuable partner in the journey of healing and hope for patients and their families in facing this health challenge. It also represents an important step towards building a healthy and responsible society.”

He further stated, “The Society takes pride in its support and coverage of the cost of cancer treatment for those unable to afford it since 2013. The number of beneficiaries from that year until the end of 2023 reached nine thousand, three hundred and sixty-two patients, at a total cost of one hundred and one million, eight hundred and fifty thousand Qatari Riyals.”

He clarified, “These humanitarian and supportive efforts reflect the society’s commitment to providing comprehensive care for cancer patients and the necessary support for them and their families during the treatment period, which helps alleviate the financial burden they may face in such difficult circumstances. We are committed to continuing our efforts to provide support and care for cancer patients, and we strive diligently to expand the scope of services and increase the effectiveness of providing financial and moral support to all those in need.”

Regarding the mechanism of operation of the “ Wayyakum.”  platform, he explained, “It is an easy and simplified mechanism for patients and their families to access financial support. The platform can be accessed by visiting the society’s website [https://www.qcs.qa/] or by downloading the ” Wayyakum.”  application from the app stores (Google Play – Apple Store). Upon entering the platform, users are asked to create a new account and fill in the necessary information to complete the registration process, including personal data and financial expenses for the patient. They must also upload the required documents for the patient and attach a ‘Sindi’ document. After submitting the request, users can track its status and verify it through the system, with the possibility of updating it if necessary. In addition, users will receive text messages on their mobile phones to inform them of the acceptance of the request or to request additional updates.”

 

 

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Qatar Cancer Society (QCS)has received  Qatar Social Responsibility Award for its exceptional achievements throughout the year 2023. The award was conferred at the Qatar Social Responsibility Conference and Exhibition 2024 -Qatar CSR Summit 2024, held from April 30 to May 2, 2024, at Qatar National Convention Centre (QNCC). This distinguished event was held under the esteemed patronage of HE Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al Thani, Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs

Themed “ ‘The Future of CSR in a Circular Economy,” the conference witnessed the participation of over 65 local and international speakers, attracting more than 4,350 specialists to engage in enriching sessions.

Qatar Cancer Society proudly contributed to the event as a bronze sponsor, showcasing its dedication to the community through an introductory lecture highlighting its mission and services. These services cater to individuals affected by cancer, including patients, survivors, and caregivers. Moreover, the society organized an impactful awareness pavilion, furthering its commitment to raising awareness about cancer-related issues among attendees.

His Excellency Sheikh Dr. Khalid bin Jabr Al Thani, QCS Chairman, expressed profound happiness and gratitude. He emphasized the award’s significance in propelling the association towards further progress and prosperity in the field of community service, aligning seamlessly with Qatar National 2023’s vision of investing in the human element. Sheikh Khalid extended sincere thanks to all stakeholders, partners, supporters, and honorary ambassadors whose unwavering support has been instrumental in advancing the society’s mission.

The award reflects the fruitful cooperation between various stakeholders and institutions in support of charitable endeavors, particularly in the crucial field of healthcare and cancer awareness. HE added.

Qatar Cancer Society extends its heartfelt appreciation to the organizers of the exhibition for their remarkable success in highlighting the importance of collective action and individual responsibility towards the nation. Recognizing that social responsibility is a collective commitment, society looks forward to fostering continued partnerships for the betterment of society. HE added.

 

 

 

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To the Melody of Hope overcome Adversity ..Roger Wickham

Roger Wickam, a 50-year-old musician from the UK, found his second home in the vibrant city of Madrid, Spain, before relocating to Doha with his loving family five years ago. As a saxophonist and flutist, Roger’s life revolved around his passion for music, punctuated by moments of joy with his wife and children.

Life in Doha was idyllic for Roger and his family, filled with hard work, holidays, and cherished moments together. Despite a generally healthy lifestyle, Roger encountered an unexpected hurdle when a seemingly innocuous sore throat and swelling in his neck led to a life-altering diagnosis.

When confronted with cancer, Roger’s world momentarily faltered, but his spirit remained unbroken. With the support of the Qatar Cancer Society and his loved ones, he embarked on a journey of healing and resilience. Reflecting on his experience, Roger emphasizes the importance of having someone to confide in and relate to during challenging times.

The road to diagnosis was fraught with uncertainty, but Roger credits the swift action of his physicians for setting him on the path to treatment early. Throughout the grueling process of surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation, Roger found solace in the stories of survivors and the unwavering support of his family and friends.

Despite the physical and emotional toll of his treatment, Roger remained steadfast in his optimism, finding silver linings even in the darkest moments. His journey taught him the value of open communication and the profound impact of human connection in times of adversity.

Today, as Roger celebrates two-and-a-half years in remission, he sees life through a new lens. Grateful for each day, he pours his heart into his music, determined to make the most of his second chance at life. His message to fellow cancer warriors is one of hope and resilience – lean on your support system, embrace the resources available, and never underestimate your strength.

Roger’s journey serves as a reminder that even in the face of adversity, there is music to be found – melodies of hope, courage, and the unwavering human spirit. As he looks towards the future, Roger’s notes of resilience continue to inspire those touched by cancer, reminding us of the power of perseverance and the beauty of the human spirit

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Fahth : Cancer taught me to become more persistent and robust.

In early spring of 2017, a short visit to the doctor changed his life forever. He had begun noticing a small mass on the left side of his neck in April, but I didn’t think much of it then and initially dismissed it. Fahth only decided to get it checked out when prompted by his friends and family. Fahth said, “I conceded for their sakes, but I wasn’t worried; it was flu season, and everyone in my family was in good health. I remained oblivious as I took sick leave, so I avoided them like I had the plague—which wasn’t so far from the stock-keeping company I worked for and made my way to the hospital. The doctors poked and prodded, hunting for a diagnosis and scouring my body for information. The doctors decided on a surgical removal of my thyroid, 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 my condition, I was shocked. The cancer had been the last thing on my mind. The lump in my neck now felt like a noose, and my diagnosis was a death sentence. But my initial fears were put to ease by the doctor’s reassurances that this type of cancer is the most common, amongst the most curable, and my chances were fantastic. Despite my initial reactions, my mind was surprisingly straightforward, 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 the cancer.

The following month, the doctors performed a 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 the cancer wouldn’t come back, at least not for a while. However, it wasn’t offered here in Doha, so I had 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 me of the victory. I was satisfied and ready to close that chapter and move on. 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 6mm 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-ups 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 the tumor. 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 3mm mass in my lymph nodes, which was a new recurrence of the 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. I had followed through with the plan and had done everything right. I had already beat the 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 for getting the 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 I might’ve prevented it if I had done something differently. But the truth is that nobody can control or predict cancer. It took me a long while and much heartache before I realized this, but when I finally did, it became easier to modify my action plan and move on to the next phase of treatment.

I returned in February 2020 for another round of high-dose radioactive iodine treatment. This would help eradicate the cancerous tissue migrating 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 expected that the radioactive therapy must 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 to proceed to the next phase of the plan.

After the radioiodine therapy in February, I was in one-month isolation. The radiation that I was emitting would harm anybody in my vicinity. Those few weeks where I was entirely 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 the 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 more robust 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, the 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 my family and friends could surround me; 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 differed from me—their backgrounds, types of cancers, and individual experiences — I still could relate to bits and pieces of their journeys. Until now, I remained strong because I felt I had no choice. I had to go on. But reading through the stories in the booklet filled me with extraordinary hope and inspiration. It helped me realize there is no cookie-cutter cancer experience, only a rich variety unique to every patient. Finally, I could 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 now as straightforward as the doctors would tell me, as the websites reassured 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. Instead, 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 the 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 expect even more for them to be able to create their own story on their terms.

 

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Ramadan Ghabga for Cancer patients

Qatar Cancer Society (QCS), in collaboration with Houston Methodist, recently convened its second “Ghabgat AlAmal” gathering at the Sheraton Doha Hotel, reaffirming its steadfast dedication to supporting cancer patients and their families through emotional and community initiatives.

Among the esteemed guests were His Excellency Sheikh Dr. Khalid bin Jabor Al Thani, Chairman of the Board; Mrs. Mona Ashkanani, Director General of QCS; and representatives from Houston Methodist Global Health Care Services, including Mr. Talal Braidy, Regional Director of Global Development, and Mrs. Najla AlHudaib, Senior Country Manager in Saudi Arabia and Qatar. The event also welcomed ambassadors from Switzerland, Spain, Italy, Turkey, and Kuwait, alongside notable public and media figures.

His Excellency Sheikh Dr. Khalid bin Jabor Al Thani commended the collaborative efforts of QCS and Houston Methodist Global in addressing the challenges posed by cancer. He emphasized the significance of the memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed between the two organizations, underscoring their shared commitment to community well-being and the pursuit of common goals in combating cancer.

Acknowledging the critical importance of partnerships in cancer control efforts, His Excellency highlighted the joint endeavors to raise awareness and deliver essential health services to cancer patients. He reaffirmed the organization’s dedication to positioning Qatar as a cancer prevention and control leader.

Mrs. Mona Ashkanani reiterated QCS’s mission to mitigate the impact of cancer in Qatar by fostering partnerships and advocating for patient support and empowerment. She emphasized the society’s multifaceted approach, encompassing financial assistance, emotional support, and awareness campaigns to showcase inspiring stories of resilience among cancer survivors.

Expressing her delight at hosting the event during the holy month of Ramadan, Mrs. Ashkanani emphasized its significance in dispelling cancer misconceptions and fostering a greater understanding of the challenges patients and their families face.

Mr. Talal Braidy expressed gratitude for the opportunity to collaborate with QCS and reaffirmed Houston Methodist’s commitment to advancing medical excellence in Qatar and beyond. He pledged continued support for QCS’s initiatives, including awareness campaigns and scientific research endeavors, as part of their shared vision for improving cancer care.

The “Ghabgat AlAmal” event was a testament to the enduring partnership between QCS and Houston Methodist as they strive to make meaningful contributions to cancer prevention, treatment, and patient care in Qatar and the wider region.

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Mohammed Shabaan: with patience and faith, I’m living with cancer

Mohammed Shabaan, a 55-year-old man, has always prioritized a healthy lifestyle, maintaining a balanced diet and regular exercise routine as part of his daily life. His passion for health extends to his small home farm, where he cultivates a variety of fruits and vegetables, recognizing the numerous benefits they offer. Among his crops is the Moringa tree, known for its medicinal properties in reducing blood sugar levels and providing anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects.

In March 2017, Mohammed faced what he describes as a life-altering moment. Initially experiencing mild constipation, which he attributed to consuming pomegranates, his condition persisted for ten days, prompting him to seek medical attention. Despite efforts with laxatives, his symptoms worsened with sudden and severe vomiting, leaving him exhausted and unable to walk, leading to an ambulance call.

Following extensive tests, including CT and PT scans, Mohammed received a diagnosis of Stage 3 Colon Cancer. This news came as a shock, as he had expected his symptoms to be transient and quickly resolved. However, upon learning of his diagnosis, Mohammed was prepared to confront the challenges ahead, remaining steadfast in his faith and determination to overcome the obstacles brought by his illness.

Concerned about potential complications, including the temporary placement of a colostomy bag, Mohammed grappled with worries about his image and reputation among family and friends. Despite these fears, he remained resolute in facing the uncertainties of his condition.

After a prolonged discussion, surgical intervention became necessary due to bowel obstruction, with initial attempts to insert a tube proving unsuccessful. However, with the arrival of a determined surgeon, Mohammed’s faith in God’s will was affirmed as the procedure was completed without complications.

Following surgery, Mohammed underwent chemotherapy, enduring severe side effects, including weight loss and diarrhea. Nevertheless, he found solace in the realization that he was nearing victory in his battle against cancer, having weathered the storms of surgery and chemotherapy.

Throughout his journey, Mohammed found unwavering support and understanding from his family and friends, witnessing a positive shift in attitudes towards cancer acceptance. Despite the challenges, he remained hopeful and resilient, facing each obstacle with courage and determination.

Mohammed views cancer not as a defeat but a new beginning—a chance for personal growth and resilience. He actively participates in initiatives such as the “Step of Hope,” in collaboration with the Qatar Cancer Society and the National Center for Cancer Care and Research, advocating for cancer awareness and support.

In conclusion, Mohammed is grateful to the Qatar Cancer Society for pioneering efforts in supporting cancer survivors and raising awareness. His journey is a testament to the power of patience, faith, and community in overcoming life’s most significant challenges. Through his story, Mohammed inspires others to embrace hope and resilience in the face of adversity, proving that with patience and faith, living with cancer is possible and can lead to a life of newfound strength and purpose.

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Sami: I told my family about my illness after recovery

I’m going to tell you my cancer story. Thank God, I am blessed with a new chance to live and survive after passing through a bitter experience , My story may be a turning point for a patient who lost strength and will. It will be inspiring for those patients consumed by disease and treatment.

My name is Sami. I come from Jordan. I moved to Doha in 2016 to start my own business and improve my children’s and my family’s material and social conditions. I was a kind father, responsible for the happiness and welfare of my family. I was an athlete, never smoked, and paid great attention to my health.

After I arrived in Doha, I began to feel a change in my right eye, although the external eye examinations did not explain why! However, an MRI scan did.

Here was my first shock when it turned out that the reason was the presence of some tumors in my brain. Later, cancer spread to different parts of my body: the liver, the adrenal glands, the lungs, and the spine, and a terrible nightmare began.

I never thought I’d start counting the number of days left for me in the world, and I never imagined myself in bed, waiting to die; I’ve had mixed thoughts about everything: parents, children, work .. etc.

Should I give in to sickness and death just like that? Should I open the door so easily for that monster to eat my body and my ability to live? During those days, I saw only death in front of my eyes. Death did not faint in my mind, so I was exhausted of this feeling until I stopped myself and asked, why do I think about death while I was still alive? Therefore, I resisted; I decided to co-live with it and put away every negative thought or slight idea that meant my life was ending. I would hide this dilemma from my parents and family. I did not want to overburden them or make them feel pain or sorrow for knowing my disease, so I decided to leave them to their lives and studies. Even my wife has burdens and responsibilities against kids and their studies.

I started the journey of radiotherapy, then chemotherapy. Have you ever heard about chemotherapy and its adverse effects? It has severe impacts on the body and psyche. It causes delirium, weakness, inflammation, diarrhea, depression, and several significant side effects.

Cortisone and radiation left their prints on my face and frail body. Questions by colleagues at work began to increase. My capability to work was decreasing. I found that people surrounding me offered their help. However, my decision not to inform anyone has never changed. I did not stop working, refused all assistance despite suffering from fatigue and pain, and endured all with love and conviction about God’s fate.

I continued with the chemotherapy for a while and liked to stay in the hospital despite seeing patients suffering everywhere around me. Nevertheless, I succeeded in making these hard times an opportunity to create a peaceful and thrilling atmosphere. I used to sit in the hospital garden to enjoy the open air and chat with nurses and patients. I was grateful to God that the center was free of sick children because I couldn’t bear to see a sick child.

I followed the treatment patiently and effortlessly, resisting and insisting. Little by little, disease began to decline, and victory was overcome. Medical reports showed positive results after the chemotherapy. In contrast, the stage of immunotherapy has started. Hope, vitality, and strength returned to my tired body, which was exhausted by the treatment.

I have become more upbeat and optimistic and look forward to the prospects of a better life free from cancer and treatment.

All this happens without telling anyone about my family. I endured a great deal of physical and psychological fatigue.

During that period, all excuses for not returning to my country and seeing my family during holidays and vacations are running out. My wife was inquiring why her husband was changing, so I had to tell her about my status and everything that had happened. She had never expected that I and death would be at a close distance.

My wife asked me to come to Doha immediately, but I refused and asked me to leave everything back and go to me. Still, I declined and convinced her of the necessity and importance of our stay in the same situation and continued my treatment, and she continued to take care of the children.

Thank God, I became better and better under the treatment I follow at the National Centre for Cancer Care & Research.

My advice to those afflicted by this disease is to adhere to treatment, not give up hope, and not heed other advice that others believe will cure cancer.

Having achieved an excellent result with immunotherapy, my presence in the center became less, and I recovered successfully. After a short period, I visited my family. I told everyone, especially my mother, but I reassured her that I was being treated in safe hands and that it was much better than being in any other place or country.

At this time, I decided to end this line of my life and start over another bright line and page. I came out of that experience a new human being reborn after my recovery, and my view of life was renewed, so that time became more valuable, as well as in the evaluation of relationships and work, and God only determines that death. Determination, will, desire to live, and trust in God is the way to recovery and not to think about death for as long as we live.

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A new strategic plan for QCS in the works: Dr Khalid

Qatar Cancer Society (QCS) is processing, preparing, and developing the strategic plan for 2025-2027 with Averroes company, QCS Chairman Sheikh Dr. Khalid bin Jabr Al Thani has announced.

The project aims to formulate the Society’s strategic direction, determine the results and strategic objectives, prepare the strategic map, design performance indicators, and matrix, define the initiative matrix, and prepare the executive plan for the initiatives of the first year of the plan.

The QCS stressed that this development is based on the charity’s community role in cancer prevention, support for those living with the disease, professional development, and scientific research, and is consistent with the National Cancer Strategy. Under the umbrella of the charitable sector, it is starting a new phase of work using the results-based planning methodology and identifying its executive and operational initiatives and tools and follow-up to ensure effective implementation of the strategic plan.

This plan comes in conjunction with the near end of the charity’s strategic plan for 2018-2024 and the need to evaluate the performance of those years to identify the most prominent limitations, risks, and strengths, as well as the results and outputs on which the new plan is to be based, which will come as a continuation of its predecessor in achieving its three strategic goals. He added that the three strategic goals are raising community awareness of cancer, ways to prevent it, support, empowering, and advocacy for those living with the disease, and scientific cancer research.

He indicated that this year would represent a new qualitative leap in its work of caring for people living with cancer, as it will witness the launch of several digital initiatives that will support this group financially, psychologically, and socially. The charity has many sustainable programs that deal with this category, including “Our Children Are Gold,” “Your Smile Is Our Life,” “I Am a Survivor, and I Will Inspire You With My Story,” “Together We Can,” “Support Groups,” and “Community Participation.”

 

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Alison Stone; A Pap smear test was a reason for my recovery

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 center, and the reason that I took this journey of well-being and preventative medicine is that I was diagnosed with cervical cancer when I was 30. So, I attribute my success today to that incident many years ago. I have survived cancer for 27 years, and I think it is essential to see how things have changed in that period.

Here is a brief synopsis of my journey ;

I was married at 18 (in my generation, that was acceptable and normal), had two 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 I would not be here today.

The cervical cancer that I had was very aggressive, and mine was mainly 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. I do feel very strongly about the need to be proactive with your health.

That experience forced me to look at my life and my control over it. The experience of the surgeries and the treatments that you go through has such a profound effect on you physically, but I think it is more the fear that has the most profound impact, and the fear I had 27 years ago was never addressed. So now, when I find out about societies like the Qatar Cancer Society in Qatar, I am so impressed and excited that women have this opportunity to be supported. Had we had something similar 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 papillomavirus 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 took a good 10 or 15 years after that until cancer could be talked about openly. Now, having chemo and not having hair, we 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 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 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.

I  think that the difference in Qatar (I was here ten 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 country 12 years ago, and we tried to convince them to get breast checks and pap smear tests, but they wouldn’t do it because they didn’t want to know. After all, they have fear, or they feel that sickness is based on divine intervention – and either way, they think 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 are a lot 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.

I told nobody about the look on my husband’s face and his inability to even respond to me. And so I carried that burden, which I am sure 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 mother or anybody until after my surgeries. And then, when I was in the hospital, people started to visit. And I put on a very brave face to begin 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. In a way, keeping silent saved me because I could pretend it wasn’t happening. After all, nobody was talking about it. I fit into that era’s psyche: “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 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 didn’t want them to be afraid that I was going to die. I did not want to put that fear into them. And I, not them, was preventing me 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 have to tell them.’ Two of my children have been vaccinated against the Human Papilloma Virus and regularly go for Pap smears. What I realized was that if I had dared to address it earlier, it is not that they would have gone earlier for Pap smears, but we could have had the conversations 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 talk to them is that it is 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 after my illness. And I think some girlfriends were 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. My choices in development, self-development, and professional development have their basis in understanding and going through my journey. My Ph.D. is in metaphysics, and I am very keen on learning about epigenetics, which is the complete 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 affects your genes too, which is fearful but empowering as well – it is fear 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 essential, which includes everybody else’s fear. 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 went in there feeling strong and brave. So I think the whole spiritual aspect to illness is faith, how strong faith is, what color 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 before my illness and what my life has been like over the years, everything was about learning about care and preventative medicine. I have 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 homemaker 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 get a Ph.D., to be in Qatar to build the women’s wellness center, to be connected, and to finally, after 27 years being able to tell my story someday.

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.’ Suppose we switched our approach to cancer and reframed everything, for example. In that case, 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 return. Instead of telling patients, ‘You only have two months to live,’ why not tell them that the medical system will do the best it can, send them home, and ask them to focus on the quality of their life and their diet?

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