Monday, November 6, 2023

Teen Cancer Patients Celebrate Exam Success | TOME


Teenage Cancer Patients in Lebanon Celebrate Baccalaureate Exam Success

Sixteen teenage cancer patients in Lebanon are celebrating their success in passing their baccalaureate exams. The Children’s Cancer Center of Lebanon (CCCL) at the American University of Beirut Medical Center held its 10th Path of Joy event to mark the achievements of these young individuals. The annual occasion showcases the accomplishments of children and young people with cancer, and this year, some of them expressed their journey through dance, song, and paintings displayed in an exhibition.

Dr. Hassan El-Solh, the medical director of the center, described these patients as heroes with exceptional strength and courage in the face of adversity. He emphasized that their stories are not just tales of survival but narratives of victory, inspiration, and hope. Dr. El-Solh also highlighted that despite a 30 to 40 percent increase in the number of children with cancer this year, the center has not turned away any patients, despite challenging financial and social conditions.

Joseph Asseily, chairperson of the CCCL, emphasized the role of education in inspiring these young patients to pursue their dreams despite the pain they endure. He acknowledged that the graduation of this new group of heroes is a testament to the combined efforts of specialized doctors, dedicated employees, and volunteers who provide comprehensive care, psychological support, and educational assistance to over 50 percent of children with cancer in Lebanon, without discrimination and at no cost to parents. Asseily also highlighted that this is achieved with an annual budget of $15 million, even amidst the ongoing economic crisis.

The CCCL has been providing medical care and psychological support to patients and their families for over 21 years. In 2016, the center launched a wellness program funded by private sources, offering activities such as drawing, yoga, music, and acting to sick children. This program also provides vital psychological and social support to patients and their families throughout their treatment journey, particularly in terms of academic education.

The CCCL was established with the mission of providing free treatment and support to all children and young people with cancer in Lebanon. It works closely with the American University of Beirut Medical Center and receives support from St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in the US. The center relies on civil initiatives to ensure the treatment of sick children and the availability of necessary medications, especially considering the economic crisis in Lebanon.

However, the center has been facing challenges due to a shortage of cancer medicines in Lebanon and delays in procuring drugs. This issue is particularly critical for children with leukemia. The Lebanese government’s decision to lift subsidies on medicines, especially those for incurable diseases, has resulted in a lack of essential medications for cancer patients, leading to deteriorating conditions and even deaths. Some families have resorted to purchasing medicines from other countries through online platforms or smuggling operations, raising concerns about the safety and quality of these drugs.

According to a report by the World Health Organization (WHO), childhood cancers such as leukemias, brain cancers, lymphomas, and solid tumors have higher cure rates in high-income countries compared to low- and middle-income countries. In Lebanon, there were approximately 17,300 new cancer cases in 2018, with a total of 41,843 cancer patients over the following five years. Lebanon has the highest percentage of cancer cases among West Asian countries, with 242 people out of every 100,000 battling the disease. The country also ranks third for cancer-related deaths relative to its population.

The success of these teenage cancer patients in passing their baccalaureate exams is a testament to their resilience and determination. It also highlights the importance of providing comprehensive care, psychological support, and educational opportunities for children and young people with cancer. Despite the challenges faced by the CCCL and the healthcare system in Lebanon, these young individuals continue to inspire hope and serve as a reminder of the strength of the human spirit in the face of adversity.

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