I was studying electrical engineering in Peshawar when I discovered that I had developed cancer. It came without warning – my first symptoms were excruciating pain in my legs and back, associated with rapid weight loss. I went to a number of doctors in Peshawar, but no one seemed to be able to find out what was wrong. Finally, I had a biopsy done which was sent to the Shaukat Khanum Laboratory. I can never forget the day when my father came home in tears. I had been diagnosed with cancer. It just seemed too early for me to die – I kept telling myself that if I was destined to live then no cancer could take that away from me. We rushed to Shaukat Khanum Hospital, weighed down not only by the enormity of the illness which I faced, and the difficult treatment which lay ahead, but also by foreboding about the financial cost of the treatment, which I did not think my family would be able to afford. I was overwhelmed with gratitude when I discovered not only that the Hospital had a policy of providing free treatment for needy patients, but also that I was eligible for it!
I went through the tough ordeal of chemotherapy and radiotherapy over the next several months, and soon started to feel that nothing could go wrong now. But, unfortunately, my disease relapsed. Luckily, my doctors were still determined to do everything they could to save my life. They told me I would be the first patient to undergo Stem Cell Transplant at Shaukat Khanum Hospital. The thought of this made me very nervous to start with, but I decided to take my chances. In March 2006, I entered the most critical part of my treatment. It was a five day procedure. Each day was like reaching out for life, which seemed within reach one moment, and slipping away the next. But in the end, life overcame death and the treatment was pronounced a success.
Shaukat Khanum Hospital has a tradition of asking former cancer patients treated at the Hospital to inaugurate its facilities. I was therefore honored and delighted when asked to perform the groundbreaking ceremony for the new Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital and Research Centre in my home city, Peshawar. This Hospital will truly be a gift for the people of the region. I was lucky to be diagnosed early and I know that after the Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital and Research Centre in Peshawar opens its doors for patients, many more patients from the region will live to share their success stories in the years to come.