Young superhero: brave 12-year-old Emirati boy beats cancer twice 'with a smile'
Ibrahim Alshamsi marks the end of his cancer treatment after a 10-year battle
Ibrahim Alshamsi, a 12-year-old Emirati boy, has been through more than what a regular sixth-year pupil should.
It was just before Ibrahim's second birthday he had a devastating cancer diagnosed.
Doctors initially believed it to be a urine infection but tests revealed Ibrahim had Rhabdomyosarcoma – an illness that leads to abnormal growth of immature muscle cells and often affects children.
When a loved one is fighting cancer, you have to have hope and know deep inside that everything will be OK
Amna Al Owais, Ibrahim’s mother
Ibrahim’s family took a leap of faith and booked tickets to Germany for his treatment. They stayed there for nine months and young Ibrahim received a combination of treatments.
After seven years of rigorous annual check-ups, the family finally breathed a sigh of relief when doctors said that he was cancer-free.
But that relief didn’t last long.
In 2020, when Ibrahim was 11, he complained of pain in his left leg that doctors shrugged off as an ache associated with adolescence.
When the pain did not subside, tests were conducted and a tumour was diagnosed in his left femur and knee.
The family once again packed up and this time headed to the UK, where doctors diagnosed Osteosarcoma, a kind of bone cancer that occurs mostly in older children and teenagers.
“It was a challenging situation but we believe in Allah and that this was fate. We kept praying,” said Amna Al Owais, Ibrahim’s mother.
Ms Al Owais said it was her son’s strength that inspired her and saw the family through weeks-long hospital stays.
She saw her child go through chemotherapy, immunotherapy, and surgeries but he took it all with a big smile on his face.
“We saw him in pain. Then he was on crutches. Then on a wheelchair, and then he started walking again, and then he was back on a wheelchair,” she said.
“When a loved one is going through cancer, you have to have hope and know deep inside that everything will be OK.
“It was not easy. I was pregnant, and Ibrahim was sick while the Covid-19 pandemic started.”
The family first sought the help of specialists at The Harley Street Clinic and, later, at University College London Hospital.
By March, Covid-19 had hit most of the world, and Ibrahim along with other patients in his ward was transferred to Great Ormond Street Hospital.
But treatment for Osteosarcoma was only available at University College London Hospital, to which he went back in July.
After more than 10 months of treatment, the family returned to the UAE in November 2020.
As Ibrahim marked the end of a 10-year long battle, he recollected it was his positive attitude and the will to fight it out that helped him through.
A Year 6 pupil at Uptown International School in Dubai, Ibrahim missed his school friends during his treatment but made new ones at hospitals and in other countries.
"It was hard and I could not meet my friends,” he said.
"Just seeing that my family and parents were healthy made me happy.
"I met people during my treatments at different hospitals and made new friends. I love making other people laugh as that cheers me up.
"During my time in the hospitals, I befriended nurses and physiotherapists. Each of them helped me and played games with me."
Ibrahim was particularly fond of Peter, a nurse he met at The Harley Street Clinic in London.
Ms Al Owais said he was very popular at the hospitals as he chatted with all his nurses.
"He enjoys making jokes and he would keep the entire ward entertained," she said.
He also worked hard to keep up with his studies and completed school work before chemotherapy sessions so he could rest afterwards.
"My advice to others is that even if you are going through something bad, you should push through and have a positive attitude," Ibrahim said.
"My mother had a baby last year in June and that made me so happy.
"I finally had someone who would give me joy. I chose the name Shamsa, which means sunshine, for my little sister.
"It’s a coincidence because she smiles a lot.
"We are four siblings and having them around made me feel happy."
Ibrahim said he likes swimming, skiing, video games, reading and drawing.
Ms Al Owais said Ibrahim’s school supported him during his treatment.
Teachers assigned him work online and he maintained a journal to record how he felt and coped.
When UAE schools closed in March, Ibrahim moved to online learning.
The school ensured he received one-on-one session with the counsellor.
"I wanted him to keep busy. He managed to complete his school projects and attended his fifth grade graduation virtually," said Ms Al Owais.
The family hopes to get back to normal life now that Ibrahim is better.
"He can finally walk around now," Ms Al Owais said.
Parents and families who are fighting cancer should try to stay positive and take one day at a time, she said.
Updated: February 16, 2021 09:38 AM