Art by Ayesha Sultan (@meat_eating.orchids)
In July 2019, after some health issues, my hemoglobin dropped to 4.4 and I was hospitalized to receive blood transfusions. Incidentally, I was given a bed in an oncology ward; this opened my eyes to a major issue of this world– pediatric cancer. It was partly this, and partly being put under the care of an amazing physician that made me want to do something to help kids suffering from cancer.
After I recovered, I emailed Dr. Naureen, my physician, that I wanted to volunteer in some capacity with cancer patients. She was very encouraging, and in September, she invited me to meet Mahveen. Mahveen was an 11 years old girl, recently diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukaemia, and Dr. Naureen thought that it would be good for her to interact with someone her age. All I can say is that Mahveen changed my life and with each passing day, we became more and more inseparable. Visiting Mahveen every week in the ward was something we both looked forward to immensely, and going there also gave me the opportunity to spend time with other cancer patients.
However, three months later, Mahveen left us. She went to heaven, leaving beautiful memories of her but also a lot of pain.
After Mahveen, I was simply devastated but then felt that I had to continue on with my journey, while also keeping Mahveen’s memory alive. Therefore, with Dr Naureen’s kind cooperation, I kept going to the ward . She then also invited me to help out at events for child cancer patients.
Along with working with these kids, I also wanted to spread awareness about cancer among more and more people. Therefore, on World Cancer Day, i.e. February 4th this year, I gave a presentation at my school in which, of course, I talked about Mahveen.
Then came Covid. After the lockdown in March, I couldn’t go to the ward anymore, so I missed my hospital family a lot. But in June, I started another project on Instagram, named Cancer Survivor Stories. As the name tells, here I shared cancer survivor stories to honour the month for cancer survivors. The experience was amazing as I got to meet some very inspirational people such as Harmain, a 20 year old cancer survivor and old patient of Dr. Naureen’s; Christie, who was a 3x AML survivor and also many others. Soon after, though, I renamed Cancer Survivor Stories- it is now called Mahveen’s Dream because Mahveen had always dreamt of becoming a cancer survivor.
While this went great, another idea came to my mind, one that would need a lot of planning and support. I talked to my sister and once I was sure about it, I then talked about it with my parents. They too, liked the idea and believed in it, so once again, I got in touch with Dr. Naureen and the nurse who gave me the right contacts. After a lot of planning, Hearts of Gold was set up. Hearts of Gold is an initiative where we give personalised gift packages to cancer patients.
My school, who has always supported me with my initiatives, gave me a grant through which the first round of Hearts of Gold was made possible on August 17. It was also a very memorable day for me because I was finally given the permission to go to the ward after 6 months, and meet Dr. Naureen. I made an Instagram page for Hearts of Gold, through which I met some very courageous and supportive people such as Noorul Ain; Damien, an adorable 2.9 year old patient and his lovely mother; Nurse Naureen (the nurse I plan Hearts of Gold with) and so many amazing people.
Then Hearts of Gold went further when we managed to send a package to a girl called Angela, from the Philippines, with stage 4 cancer- although I’ve never met her personally, her smiling photographs were truly heartwarming.
Then recently, on October 2nd, Hearts of Gold had its second round. This time around, we had even more support, as two companies sent us generous boxes of their goodies to share with these kids, and they surely added a lot of fun and colour to our packages.
The plan now is to expand Hearts of Gold by giving packages in the outpatient department of a hospital! If you’re interested in following this story, or in contributing in any way towards adding even a little bit of light and laughter to these kids’ days, you can check out/ follow.
|Aelia Jawad||A 13 y/o from Karachi. Love crafting, playing Scrabble and spending time with cancer patients. Student ambassador of an organization called Letters of Love (www.letters-of-love.org)|