Blood donors mass at the “Blood Cancer Awareness Day” in Al Zahra Hospital-Dubai on Saturday. John Varughese/Gulf Today
Mariecar Jara-Puyod, Senior Reporter
Support inputs a substantial effect on the cure and rehabilitation of blood cancer patients. The testimony were from UAE expatriate residents since the early 1990s Ambrocio Langdet and his daughter Hertz Langdet-Martin from Ilocos Norte, the Philippines, and Margaret Raukuttis from Dusseldorf, Germany.
They were at the “Blood Cancer Awareness Day” hosted by the Al Zahra Hospital-Dubai on Saturday, which, according to consultant haematologist-oncologist Dr Rana Shabeeha, was the jumpstart for a series of campaign that not only seeks to educate the public about the fifth “most common malignancy in the world” which gets a rate of 80 to 90 per cent cure “with a good remission” but also seeks to get patients and their families, alongside the medical community, form the necessary support group across the UAE.
Langdet, 71, diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma is Shabeeha’s oldest patient. The youngest is 22, with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Another is 29 afflicted with chronic leukaemia.
The day also saw a mass of individuals, some with their children, who queued in as early as 10am for the blood donation drive facilitated by the Dubai Health Authority (DHA).
The first two regular blood donors were Karim Ati from Tunisia and Vitaly Chekinov from Russia.
Raukuttis mentioned the need for the support group in her brief talk that detailed her journey with blood cancer since January 2019 when she woke up one morning with a “blue” upper left arm. Medical tests revealed she had thrombosis due a to tumour on her chest. Subsequent Positron Emission Tomography (PetScan) imaging test evidenced lymphoma.
Interviewed, she recalled the immediate response of her friends was for her to move back to Germany: “But who would take care of me there? My family is here. We have been here since the 1990s. Good we have professional caring hospital people here.”
She expressed hope that more patients and their families come out and talk about their respective experiences: “Kaliwali. It is good to remain to be positive. But support groups are (boosters too).”
Chemical engineer Langdet began throwing up food and experiencing irregular stomach aches in November 2018. It was only in March 2019, after a third consultation with the hospital’s surgical oncologist Dr Sadir Al Rawi and through the PetScan that his family got a full overview of his real condition.
“We must go for a second and even a third opinion. We must never be embarrassed (enquiring). We must go to hospitals where we are comfortable, whose doctors are able to and willing to explain in understandable simple language of what is going on,” Langdet-Martin told Gulf Today.
Their family was not spared of the grip of fear. Too much unexplained information overload proved cumbersome.
They only became at ease when Al Rawi and Shabeeha explained to them thoroughly what being in stage 3 cancer and what chemotherapy are. With chemotherapy the other dilemma, Langdet-Martin said another un-ease removed was Shabeeha’s advice: “Do not panic. Watch out for his fevers after each session (for fevers signify infection.)”
Strong family support came by way of her relatives in Sharjah who have been with them since the “first cancer in the family was detected in 2018,” her non-Filipino husband scheduling his business meetings to fit in with the chemotherapy sessions on his father-in-law, their 12-year-old daughter taking care of her “lolo” (grandfather), and the nanny trained to feed Langdet with home-cooked pureed or liquefied food.
“It was a complete change of lifestyle for us. We (neither) over-feed nor force him to eat.”
Langdet-Martin was grateful to the hospital staff: “They even WhatsApp us for reminders and the simple ‘how are you and your dad.”
She expressed gratitude to the consultancy firm her father has been employed in and thus, the health insurance benefits.
Shabeeha was grateful that Langdet has done excellently well with the treatments: “All in God’s hands. Ambrocio was skin and bones when I first met him. “
Trials are ongoing across Europe and North America for the treatment of blood cancers, according to a consultant oncologist in Dubai who has also shared the success story of a 28-year-old patient in the UAE.
The UAE government is determined to bring down blood cancer fatalities in the country where it is the third leading cause of death, numbering at 4500 new cases each year.
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Gupta, who was designated as X's Head of Global Government Affairs for India and South Asia, declined to comment to Reuters. X did not immediately respond to a request for comment.