VIDEO: Battling cancer with a smile; Events lined up as part of month-long awareness drive
Mon, 03 Sep 2018
By Reem Al Daaysi
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A MAJOR month-long campaign to raise awareness about cancer in children was launched in Bahrain yesterday.
More than 50 cancer-stricken children and survivors stuffed teddy bears, painted T-shirts and played with clay during the opening of the ‘Kids R Golden’ drive organised by the Future Youth Society’s Smile Initiative.
The fifth edition of the event was held at the Abdulla Kanoo Oncology Unit at Salmaniya Medical Complex (SMC) and also included a story-telling corner and a music station.
The children’s mothers stressed the importance of early detection and a positive attitude on the road to healing, especially since the treatment process is painful.
“It was a challenging and painful experience because suddenly it felt like something was stolen from me,” said 22-year-old Wafaa Al Omari, whose son, Yousif, aged seven, was diagnosed with acute leukaemia in 2014.
“He just had fever, showed signs of lethargy and lack of appetite which I attributed to him teething.”
But as the symptoms persisted, Yousif was transferred to the oncology unit and was diagnosed with cancer.
“The only thing that got me through this was the thought that I had to be strong in order to help him,” she added, breaking down in tears.
She praised the society’s efforts to ensure the children do not feel alienated but can enjoy their lives like regular children, by playing games and interacting with others in a protected environment.
The event was also attended by Labour and Social Development Ministry community development assistant under-secretary Khalid Ishaq, Health Ministry public health assistant under-secretary Dr Mariam Al Hajeri, SMC administration services acting chief executive Jassim Bahar along with ‘Smile Heroes’ – children who have survived cancer – and their families.
Another mother said she did not want her son to feel alienated from the other children because he was not allowed to eat fast food.
“I would cook the meal at home without my son knowing and go to the restaurant, ask them to pack it as a happy meal with the toy and I’d pay the difference,” said 32-year-old Fatima Al Fardan.
“I did this to make sure he did not feel different from the other children; you should see the smile brighten his face.
“He would always cry because he lost his hair and could not interact with children his age or go to events or even study.”
Seven-year-old Ali was diagnosed with cancer in 2014 and is currently in remission undergoing regular check-ups to prevent a re-occurrence.
“I received the shock of my life when I was told he had cancer; I just collapsed and could not stop crying,” said Ms Al Fardan.
“I fell into a dark spiral and did not want to speak to, or interact with, anyone for weeks.
“I would be in the oncology ward and see the children with wires attached to them; they had no hair and it made it harder for me to imagine my son going through the same process.”
Ms Al Fardan’s close interaction with other parents helped ease the pain.
She urged parents to pay attention to the signs because early detection could potentially save their children’s lives.
She thanked the Smile Initiative for providing her son with a redecorated bedroom after conducting a home visit.
A series of events are lined up throughout the month targeting different segments of the Bahraini society and aimed at increasing awareness about the disease on all fronts including an awareness platform set up in Seef Mall on September 21 and 22.
A walkathon is also being organised on September 28 at the Prince Khalifa Bin Salman Park in Hidd.
Contact 17725517 or 33919082 to join the movement and follow @smileofbahrain on Instagram.