National Cancer Survivors Day: UAE residents celebrate life after beating big C
Brave survivors in the UAE share their stories to spread awareness, inspire people, and prove that there could be bright, happy days.
Celebrating life after cancer, brave survivors in the UAE share their stories to spread awareness, inspire people, and prove that there could be bright, happy days - and years - after the dreaded disease. Today, National Cancer Survivors Day, they recall the battle they've fought and won.
"It is a day for everyone, whether you're a cancer survivor, a family member, friend, or medical professional.
This day provides an opportunity for all people living with a history of cancer to connect with each other, celebrate milestones, and recognize those who have supported them along the way," said Michael Davis, CEO, NMC Health.
Photo (From left to right): Mia Iliscupidez Osio, Nanny Monteiro,Carl Pittman, Dr Sharon Mendoza-Dreisbach and Jibi Jayraj.
It taught me self-love
Filipina expat Mia Iliscupidez Osio, 36, was shocked when she found out she had breast cancer in September last year. Her life changed in a dime, but all for the better, she said.
"My world came crashing down but, with the treatment, I learnt to be thankful to God, and appreciate every little thing. I also learnt that self-love is very important," said Osio, who lives in Ajman. She was diagnosed at NMC Speciality Hospital in Abu Dhabi by Dr Balaji Balasubramaniam, consultant surgical oncologist.
She has now been eating healthier and exercising regularly. "I am now more conscious of taking care of myself mentally, physically and spiritually," she said.
Live life in the moment
Nanny Monteiro, a 55-year-old Filipina in Abu Dhabi, has been running a retail shop selling perfume, clothes and bags since 2004. She didn't know there were a lot of things she had taken for granted until she was diagnosed with breast cancer in December 2013 - and eventually beat the disease.
"Health is a valuable asset that you don't truly appreciate until it's in jeopardy," said Monteiro. "Being a cancer survivor gave me the opportunity to live my life in the moment."
Her message to cancer warriors is simple: "You are stronger than you think. Never give up and always look at the bright side. With prayers, love and courage you will win the battle over cancer. You can defeat it."
Patient turned advocate
In January 2019, Carl Pittman was diagnosed with prostate cancer.
"I have realised that all men needed to see a urologist as soon as they turned 50 years old. It is very important for a man to go for a PSA (prostate-specific antigen) test, a blood test used primarily to screen for prostate cancer," said the 59-year-old British expat.
Speaking about his fast recovery, he said: "I feel great and excellent now. It took me about two weeks after the operation to get back to work."
Pittman has been sharing his experience in prostate cancer awareness campaigns and working towards helping other cancer patients.
Grateful for everything
Dr Sharon Mendoza-Dreisbach, a Filipina expat in Ajman, teaches at a local university. But back in 2015, it was her who learnt countless things about life.
Dr Dreisbach's breast cancer was at stage 3 when she was diagnosed in October 2015. She braved the disease and eventually won the battle. "After treatment, everything in me changed. My perspective and priorities in life are now focused on positivity," she said after recovery.
She also has started her advocacy in spreading awareness about breast cancer. "After having successfully beaten cancer, a sense of humility of being grateful for everything and to everyone, especially to our Almighty Creator has set in," she said.
Emotional support is key
Indian expat Jibi Jayraj survived a certain type of cancer of the throat. It was a tough battle but she rose above it all. She said she owed her recovery to her doctor who had calmed her nerves all throughout the ordeal.
"I used to remain depressed about my diagnosis, but my doctor constantly gave me the assurance and confidence," said Jayraj.
Her doctor was Dr Sukrith Shetty at NMC Speciality Hospital, Dubai.
She even got worried about a relapse but she said her medical team kept her strong.
"As much as the treatment helped, it was the emotional support that Dr Sukrith and the medical team that worked for me," she said.
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