Cancer sucks the energy out of a person mentally and physically with merciless speed. Being afflicted with and fighting it successfully takes a lot of pain and suffering but if anyone thinks it is impossible to win the battle, even once, here’s a living, inspiring proof.
Diagnosed with the dreaded disease for the first time when she was a happy, full-time mum, and then two more times in a row, and a fourth time after a gap of 15 years, she fought off cancer each time, helping others in the same boat, setting up the first cancer society in the country and establishing a mobile mammography unit in between.
Yuthar Al Rawahy’s story is filled with hope, courage and dedication to helping spread awareness about cancer.
“I was a full-time mother, full of life, doing everything that I enjoyed when I was diagnosed with cancer in 1998 for the first time. I was devastated. The last thing I expected was to be diagnosed with cancer. After the initial shock and sorrow of being diagnosed, I overcame these emotions with the help of my family and friends. I was diagnosed with cancer four times – three occurred one after the other, the fourth was after 15 years. But I was lucky and blessed to get the best treatment abroad due to the generosity and wisdom of the late His Majesty Sultan Qaboos,” says Yuthar.
On returning to Oman after her treatment, she realised that the awareness and understanding of cancer was poor.
“People didn’t talk about cancer during those days. When I came back after my treatment, there were many who came to visit and told me I need to go back to my God; like I had done something wrong and God had punished me. That’s when I realised I need to do something about this.”Yuthar Al Harthy
She got together a group of like-minded people, including cancer survivors, and organised a talk about cancer that saw a tremendous turnout. Yuthar realised the need for a body that would address cancer, spread awareness and hope in the Sultanate.
She went on to establish the National Association for Cancer Awareness which was officially registered under the Ministry of Social Development in 2004.
Ten years later, the association was rebranded as the Oman Cancer Association.
The Oman Cancer Association has been at the forefront of spreading awareness and providing support to cancer patients, survivors and their families.
Among the commendable achievements of OCA is the procurement of a mobile mammography unit that goes around the Sultanate to provide free screening to women.
Over 25,000 women have been successfully screened at the mobile unit. Another project that took shape under OCA is Dar Al Hanan, a home away from home that accommodates children undergoing cancer treatment along with their families.
Talking about her inspiring motivation and courage, she says: “I believe you must be your own inspiration before you can hope to touch others’ lives. If I have any strength it is a blessing from Allah… I learned from my multiple experiences with cancer that we must be grateful for the phenomenally powerful yet fragile miracle that is our creation. I’m constantly humbled by what we are able to do with our bodies let alone with our spirit; Allah has bestowed within each of us the willpower to overcome challenges, we must train ourselves to tap into that well and sustain it.” She adds: “As for motivation, it’s not always easy, we can constantly and deliberately exercise it like a muscle.
The sense of accomplishment usually is reward enough to keep most people going. For me, the fulfilment I get from knowing the hard work, blood sweat and tears that went into initiatives like the mobile mammography unit, Dar Al Hanan and now Bridging the Gap (all cancer awareness, prevention and care services) benefits even one person or alleviates the suffering of one family is enough. Seeing my children and grandchildren grown up, good people and contributing citizens is enough. They motivate me and make me immensely grateful for being a daughter of Oman.”
As Oman celebrates 50 glorious years Yuthar beams with pride. “Late His Majesty Sultan Qaboos ensured that the people wanted for nothing; access to all areas of the country through an extensive solid network of roads, schools and clinics and/or hospitals where the population was dense enough to require it, education, and the ability to travel far and wide with a recognised and respected passport.
The leadership of the late His Majesty Sultan Qaboos, and now His Majesty Sultan Haitham bin Tarik, has inspired generations to continue the nation-building process and further the glorious renaissance. The inclusive methodology in which Vision 2040 was crafted makes me confident its realisation will be just as glorious as what we have become accustomed to in Oman.
I am excited and encouraged by the words of Honourable Lady Ahad bint Abdullah bin Hamad Al Busaidiyah, the spouse of His Majesty the Sultan, that the future will be even brighter despite the challenges not only Oman, but the region and the world, is facing,” she adds.