Saturday, 14 June 2014

Childhood Cancer Awareness

My younger twin is a cancer survivor. He was diagnosed with an extremely rare type of cancer when he fell down and had to be taken to the emergency room. Luckily, we had caught it early on and though rare, this type had an excellent prognosis. It was still a battle. Dealing with a little boy who was going through chemo and radiation was a roller coaster ride of emotions, tears and laughter where we could have it. His twin was his greatest ally, always prompting him to keep playing. His school (School of Knowledge) were extremely co-operative, and his father never failed to keep an appointment regardless of the fact that the hospital (click here to find out more about his hospital) was a good 3 hour's drive away.

As I have recently moved back to Karachi, I have been looking around to do something for my society. The city has limited resources, and the ones paying the heaviest price are the poor children living in the slums. Although I have taken up a teaching position, a friend of mine who is an avid social worker dedicated to providing these very children a brighter future by providing them the best education possible (click here for more) invited me to take a field trip with the kids to the only non profit childhood cancer hospital here. I was intrigued. The children I was going with were taught about art therapy and how to engage young cancer patients and communicate with them through art. The children seemed happy to be able to help the lesser fortunate and this empathy is what our society is in need of.

So I tagged along to see what would come off all this. Since my son was treated at one of the most prestigious cancer hospitals in the world, and knowing that the treatment was very costly,I was curious to see  how an organization like this one was actually pulling off offering this treatment to the masses who could not even afford two decent meals a day.

The entrance was in stark contrast to the huge glass doors of Al-Twam hospital. As I stepped inside a woman came grief stricken mumbling words like "He was just fine and playing, whatever happened?" It was just too painful to see. It was real life, the harshness and ugliness all personified. It didn't take too long to realize that there had been a terrible tragedy. As we moved on upstairs to the wards, I was pleasantly surprised by the efficiency of the staff, their dedication and their energy even in the full blast of the summer heat. It was as if the fans weren't even existent. I also noticed that although not all the beds were hi-fi, there were wards that were designed to accommodate more sicker patients. When funds are scarce, you have to plan out these things, you don't have the luxury of showing off beauty. And yet it was beautiful. The humanity of it, words can not begin to express the mixture of emotions going through my mind.

As the children prepared to enter the wards, a young woman who I later found out was the child psychologist, gave the kids a little pep talk to respect the wishes of the sick kids, to sanitize their hands (Purell every where), and to take care of their canulas and other medical equipment. Now this was new, because I had not seen a psychologist at Al-Twam. I asked if children were given chemo through ports (a device put into the chest which is used to dispense chemo therapy drugs with better results and less pain), but she replied that it was too costly to both insert and maintain.I watched how she went around and cheered up the dull and dreary faces, putting a smile on them. The children began their work by offering the kids some paper and a host of art supplies. The whole scene seemed surreal. As the children were finishing up and getting ready to leave, the little child who had succumbed to his illness was taken away. A knot took hold in my gut as I silently prayed to give this child's parents patience and thanked God for my child's life.

There was no doubt the staff and and patients did not have the luxury, the comfort or excellent quality of care that my child had, but they had love, dedication and determination that could contend for that. They compensated in ways that could only be described as being humane and good and pure. Even though I had learned so much in my own struggle with my child, this entire experience taught me things on a whole other platform.

The children also learned a lot, I'm sure some of them will our tomorrow's oncologists, our tomorrow's brighter future.

For more childhood cancer facts:
For more on Children Cancer Hospital


  1. Very useful information.I have heard that kids under the age of one have a cure rate as high as 90% so it would be really helpful when we spread the word,raise awareness and be their voice as kids cant fight cancer alone!

  2. Yes I agree...they can do it, but not alone.