International Childhood Cancer Day: Young survivors in UAE share journeys of hope

The school students want to inspire patients to keep the faith, embrace road to recovery

Abu Dhabi: A cancer diagnosis usually spells much fear, and the subsequent battle with the disease can be even scarier. But finding the cancer early can help many a patient survive, especially with the aid of medical advances. In particular, childhood cancer survivors often go on to share their stories of hope and triumph, and every February 15, on the occasion of International Childhood Cancer Day, the world pays tribute to them and their families. This year, three brave warriors in the UAE who have fought and defeated cancer have shared their experiences in a bid to inspire other young patients.

Simple doctor visit

Khamis Abdul Khader, 12, an Indian student, was only nine when he was diagnosed with Ewing sarcoma, a rare cancer that occurs in the bones or the surrounding soft tissue. The diagnosis came after an unsuspecting visit to the doctor for some shoulder pain the young boy had been experiencing. Khamis said his uncle first explained the disease to him. Later, along with his grandmother, he went to the hospital and met his doctor, who reassured them and offered support. The treatment, comprising chemotherapy and radiation sessions, lasted for a year and eight months across two hospitals – Government Hospital in Al Ain and Burjeel Hospital in Abu Dhabi city. It was a difficult journey for Khamis, who was admitted to the hospital several times with fever and mouth ulcers. Despite the challenges, he managed to maintain a positive outlook.

Early diagnosis, treatment

Dr Mansi Sachdev, consultant for paediatric haematology, oncology and bone marrow transplant at the Burjeel Medical City, explained that good outcomes are possible with early diagnosis and treatment of many childhood cancers.

“Cure rates for most cancers in children are much higher than for adult cancers. Children’s bodies are more resilient, and can withstand the side effects of cancer treatments much better than adults. Through collaboration, protocol-based treatment and clinical trials, common childhood cancers like acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, once considered fatal, now have a very high cure rate in many developed countries,” she said.

Powerful lessons

While overcoming a disease like cancer can shape the lives of survivors, it also teaches powerful life experiences to those around them.

“Apart from early diagnosis and good care, an optimistic mindset and faith go a long way in helping patients navigate the challenges of the disease. As a doctor, working with children who have cancer is truly humbling. In my profession, I see stories of courage and compassion every day, and there’s always something to be grateful for,” said Dr Zainul Aabideen, consultant paediatric and head of paediatric and paediatric haematology and oncology at the hospital.

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