Be Aware for Childhood Cancer Awareness Month

No child with cancer should have to suffer quietly in isolation. And yet, this is often the case for many children like Hooriya.

If the past months have taught us anything, it’s that isolation can take a huge toll on our mental, and often even physical, wellbeing. Those of us with children would have noticed just how much our little ones were affected during lockdown. So can you imagine what a child with cancer goes through, as they are undergoing treatment? Now add to this the reality that in Pakistan, many people still have misconceptions that cancer is contagious.

Hooriya found this out the hard way when she was diagnosed with sarcoma in her left leg, at age 9. In the months following her diagnosis, she lost many of her friends at school. It was a hard blow to a child grappling with the pain of her disease, as well as the reality of what it meant and how it would change her life.

“While seeking treatment for my daughter, I was often disappointed and on the verge of losing hope,” Hooriya’s father recalls. “We were getting so many different opinions about the best way to proceed and her chances of survival. To top all this off, the treatment would be very expensive. I was scared. I was scared for my daughter’s life, and I was scared of not being able to afford her treatment. It didn’t help that Hooriya’s friends started to shun her because their parents’ believed cancer was contagious. Can you imagine?!”

Hooriya’s father and mother held fast to their faith despite the long and difficult journey which awaited them. A journey they thought they would have to travel alone. But when Hooria started her treatment at Shaukat Khanum Hospital, they realised they’d been mistaken.

“We were blessed to have found the ultimate care support system at Shaukat Khanum Hospital. Hooriya may have lost a couple of friends back at school, but she found new friends in the staff and patients of Shaukat Khanum Hospital. Friends who inspired in her the courage and hope to fight cancer.”

Hooriya’s was a long and testing battle, spanning two years. Fortunately, the treatment she received at Shaukat Khanum Hospital cost to her family nothing. It had already been paid for by IKCA and Shaukat Khanum Hospital donors. This was an invaluable blessing for Hooriya’s parents. Free from the financial burden, they could focus all their energy on supporting their child through her treatment.

Both Hooriya and her parents found a second family at the hospital. A family which showed her that cancer was not contagious, and there was no shame in it. A family which gave her hope and made her believe she had a fighting chance.

“In the beginning, when she was isolated by her friends, Hooriya was devastated,” her father recalls. “I remember she asked us that time why she had to have cancer. Her mother told her, ‘because Allah knows you have a brave heart, and that you can fight it.’ With all the support and encouragement she found at Shaukat Khanum Hospital, Hooriya came to believe this. Today my daughter is alive and well thanks to Allah (swt) and everyone who was there for us.”

September is ‘Childhood Cancer Awareness Month’. With childhood cancer on the rise all over the world, now more than ever, we need to raise awareness and debunk the myths around the disease.

Awareness of cancer can mean an early diagnosis. This can drastically improve a patient’s chances of survival. Awareness of cancer can mean a patient receives informed support from those closest to them. This is vital in the fight to survive a disease which is exasperated by poor morale.

Luckily, Hooriya made many friends at Shaukat Khanum Hospital while undergoing treatment. Today, three years on, she’s is healthier and stronger than ever.

If you’d like to do something for childhood cancer awareness month, you can start by spreading the word. Share this blog across social media and tell those close to you about the difficulties children with cancer face in Pakistan. You can also donate or raise funds to support the treatment of a child like Hooriya.

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