UAE: ‘My friend became my only family’; why cancer patients need you to overcome your shock and support them

Non-profit organisation FOCP’s Zakat campaign will cover shortage of funds for treatment. You need to cover shortage of moral support for your loved ones


Sahim Salim

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Published: Mon 17 Apr 2023, 6:00 AM

Dubai resident Muhammad Hassan was diagnosed with cancer when he was far away from the love, warmth and support of his family. However, as he faced his fears alone, he found family in his friend Nasr Al Islam, who provided him with emotional and physical support throughout his treatment for lung cancer.

Despite not being related by blood, Nasr was committed to Muhammad's well-being. “Muhammad became my only family, and when he was diagnosed with lung cancer, I became his only family, too."

Photo: Muhammad Hassan with his friend Nasr Al Islam
Photo: Muhammad Hassan with his friend Nasr Al Islam

Muhammad contacted non-profit organisation Friends of Cancer Patients (FoCP) for financial help, which covered the shortage of his health insurance plan. His friend Nasr covered the shortage of his familial care to beat the disease. “As Muhammad is a father of three, who live far from him, I dedicated myself to his well-being,” said Nasr.

Muhammad’s case highlights just how important moral and material support is to help cancer patients overcome the emotional burden of the disease. Recognising this, the FoCP has emphasised the vital role of patient support in cancer treatment.

Under the theme ‘worth more than words’, the non-profit’s Zakat fundraising campaign during Ramadan aims to collect donations to support cancer patients. Among its various initiatives, ‘The Ramadan Meer’ seeks to provide basic foods that indigent and low-income families need for Iftar, “complementing the unwavering support of family and friends who closely monitor their loved ones’ condition.”

Overcoming shock

Ahmed Abdel Khalek, a 53-year-old UAE resident, was in a state of shock when he first learned that his wife, Rafah Sawan, had breast cancer. However, the weight of the future of his five children propelled him to find strength in their 20-year marriage and stand by his wife’s side as they faced the challenge together.

Photo: Rafah and her family
Photo: Rafah and her family

“It is definitely a difficult situation, but family bonding is essential during such times, as it represents 90 per cent of the support needed for the patient. Therefore, we had no other choice but to hold hands as one family.”

He stressed the importance of his role as a husband and father. “I have a difficult task ahead of me to preserve my family [during this] ordeal. I believe that illness is a stage that must pass in order for life to continue.”

Role of friends, family

Sudanese driving instructor Ahmed Jamal El Din cared for his friend and colleague, Osman Ahmed, during the latter's battle with colon cancer. The presence of Osman’s first-degree relatives in the country never prevented the decade-long friend from continuing to be Osman's housing partner and caregiver, until the FOCP provided him with additional support.

Photo: Osman Ahmed and Ahmed Jamal El Din
Photo: Osman Ahmed and Ahmed Jamal El Din

During Othman's major and dangerous surgeries, his friends provided crucial moral support. “We must normalise illness and offer humour and social activities to alleviate psychological burdens. Being present for the patient, even with a simple message or call, is essential to reducing their feelings of loneliness.”


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