“I CAN CERvive”: The ride to conquer cancer at the center of student conference
As part of a class assignment, four LAU students invited survivors and specialists to discuss the ways women can prevent and fight the disease.
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Inspired by her personal experience with cancer, journalism student Racha Hamade came up with the idea of organizing an awareness-raising conference addressed to women entitled “I CAN CERvive,” as part of a class project with three other LAU students.
Hamade was cured at the age of 17, a year after she was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Dr. Ramez Maluf’s Introduction to Public Relations course offered her the opportunity to share her story on January 9, at the Irwin Hall Auditorium, Beirut campus.
“I didn’t see my cancer as a sign of death,” said Hamade. “Both of us do not fit in here. It is you or me, and it will definitely be me,” she said when explaining how she defeated the disease.
Another survivor, Leila Ajam, was invited by the students to talk about her experience. She said she had never thought she would be diagnosed with breast cancer, since she had always followed a healthy diet and participated in marathons.
After eight chemotherapy and 36 radiation sessions, Ajam was cured. She believes that the support of family and friends was crucial during her therapy.
At the event, Dr. Fadi Farhat, lecturer at USJ’s Faculty of Medicine, presented a 2006 study on the percentage of women diagnosed with cancer in the United States. “Breast cancer is the most common with 31% [of diagnosed cases] followed by 12% of lung and bronchus cancer [incidences],” said Farhat. He added that the estimated deaths from both cancer types are 15% and 26% respectively.
Dr. Ali Khalil, obstetrics and gynecology specialist at AUB Medical Center, talked about cervical cancer that can be caused by Human papillomavirus typically transmitted through sexual contact. “Each year 500,000 women are diagnosed and every two minutes someone dies” of this disease, Khalil said.
Despite the shocking numbers, Khalil provided hope. “A vaccine can now prevent infection by HPV types 16 and 18 which are responsible for causing 70% of cervical cancer,” he said. He added that this intra-muscular injection is most effective when given to girls before they become sexually active.
Farhat also highlighted the importance of timely detection, saying “there is a 90% chance for cancer to be cured if discovered early.”
Dr. Ketty Sarouphim, associate professor of psychology at LAU, explained the different psycho-emotional stages patients go through such as denial, rage, depression, guilt and loneliness.
Sarouphim also offered tips on how patients and their families can better cope with cancer. “Be a source of hope and joy; benefit from the present and do not think about the future; provide moral support and encourage the patient to believe in a higher power,” she said.
Hamade and her group members, Sara Hamieh, Farah Chehade and Rasha Ghizzawi, hope that what they started as a class assignment will continue with more activities to raise awareness on the issue.