As far as she could remember, Afaf had followed a normal healthy routine. So, when cancer struck, it came as major shock to the 47-year-old Arab expatriate. She had not carried out any self-examination, or gone for medical check-ups.
The early signs had been inconclusive. She was constantly exhausted but that did not make her suspect it could be a sign of cancer. It was only when the symptoms became worse, especially after her return to the UAE from a trip in 2016, that she was prompted to undergo a check-up at Rashid Hospital. The test revealed that Afaf had stage three breast cancer.
Coming as it did on the heels of both she and her husband losing their jobs, Afaf was devastated. She lapsed into a state of depression and reclusion, which worsened her medical condition and self-esteem.
In dire need of support
Studies have revealed that psychological and moral support for patients is an essential part of successful treatment and recovery. This is especially so for cancer patients. A positive diagnosis of cancer is typically accompanied by psychological trauma that puts the patient in a state of reclusion and depression that can negatively affect their treatment journey.
Luckily for Afaf, some good friends put her in touch with Sharjah-based non-profit organisation Friends of Cancer Patients (FOCP). The importance of support is a key component of treatment recognised by FOCP, which spares no effort in providing support of all kinds, including moral and treatment aid for patients. The organisation strives to restore hope for cancer patients in order to fight the disease.
Since its inception, FOCP is the repository of many inspiring stories of how their efforts have helped many patients recover. To this was added the story of Afaf, who is a living testament to the moral and psychological support offered by FOCP.
Afaf said: “I hit rock bottom and saw no light at the end of the tunnel until I stepped into the FOCP office. I was greeted with a warm smile and a positive atmosphere. They discussed my case with sympathy and helped me chart out a recovery plan. Hope and the desire to live returned after they embraced me and convinced me that cancer is manageable and treatable if I diligently obeyed my doctors on the treatment and follow-ups.”
For Afaf, life began again. “After a short period of individual and group sessions, I felt that I was a part of FOCP’s loving and caring family, living in a positive environment amongst the FOCP staff members, volunteers and fellow patients,” she said. “This helped me to bounce back, and start the treatment journey with high hope, backed by the strength and support of the FOCP family. I went through three months of excruciating chemotherapy, and check-ups.”
In fact, she attributed 90 percent of the success of her treatment to the amazing psychological and moral support, and positive environment offered by FOCP.
Now an FOCP family member, Afaf said that the organisation besides supporting her emotionally and financially also raised her awareness about cancer, the symptoms, the importance of early detection, and leading a healthy lifestyle.
She urged the public to undergo periodic check-ups as recovery from cancer hinges on early detection and treatment. She also advised everybody to follow a healthy diet and exercise routine to limit the chances of the occurrence of cancer.