Talha Butt: At Age 15, I was diagnosed with a cancerous tumour very close to my heart. Alhamdullah, I survived.

“My parents couldn't afford the high cost of treatment in Lahore. Also, the late diagnosis I received at a standard hospital cost me precious time.”

At age 15, Muhammad Talha was diagnosed with cancer. The tumour was so close to his heart, doctors refused to operate and told him he had less than a month to live. Talha’s family were advised to get an MRI scan done as a final resort. For this, he was referred to Shaukat Khanum Hospital in Lahore. Ironically, staff at the hospital that referred him, warned Talha’s family that Shaukat Khanum was so expensive no one could set foot in it. But if Talha had any chance at all to live, the MRI was necessary.

Talha and his family were apprehensive when they came to SKMCH, but they were also desperate. What they found surprised them. The doctor at the walk-in clinic told Talha’s parents that while the hospital did have capacity constraints, fees would not be an issue, because 75% of patients at Shaukat Khanum are financially supported. In fact, Shaukat Khanum Hospital was built precisely so that the poor could have access to free cancer-care in Pakistan. ‘When you get well,’ he said to Talha with an encouraging smile, ‘you can return home and tell everyone who can set foot in Shaukat Khanum.’

Talha’s treatment plan included chemotherapy sessions to shrink the tumour, followed by surgery. When the time came to operate, his doctors informed Talha’s parents of the risks involved. The tumour was attached to his left lung, and very close to his heart. But if left untreated, it would cost the boy his life.

The operation took six hours. When the surgeon came out of the operating theatre, Talha’s parents were so wracked with worry and fear, they couldn’t muster the courage to ask about their son. But the doctor didn’t delay in giving them the good news: the tumour had been removed successfully.

Talha’s recovery was nothing short of a miracle. He is alive and well today through the will of God, and the support of IKCA donors who made free cancer care in Pakistan a reality. Now Talha is making the most of his second chance at life. He works hard at school, plays hard at cricket, and celebrates two birthdays every year: the day he was born, and the day he survived cancer.

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