1,000 Families Project: Never Ever Give Up Hope

A father of two and new Canadian on supporting both his sister and mom through a difficult time, despite the miles between them.

I still remember that day. It was Monday, November 24, 2014 in the afternoon when our family doctor in Dubai called me and asked me to come down to the hospital to talk about my sister’s health condition. She was only 32 at the time.

All the way there, I was questioning what could have happened. She had a cough and pain in her shoulder — but that couldn’t be life threatening, could it? I was terrified. What could be going wrong?

Unfortunately, we learned that my sister had a tumor in her chest and would soon be officially diagnosed with Mediastinal Thyamic Large B cell Lymphoma, a rare type of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

It took my sister exactly one year to defeat cancer. On November 24, 2015, she underwent a PET scan that declared her cancer free. Our entire family rejoiced. Each and every one of us had suffered immensely as we watched her go through chemotherapy and radiation at the American Private Hospital in Dubai. When a cancer patient is diagnosed, it impacts everyone around them. The disease does not discriminate.

Still, our family never gave up hope. We never gave up faith. With every challenge, we supported and stood beside my sister. We still do so, today.

I moved to Calgary from Dubai in 2015 with my wife and two kids. I had left my sister in the middle of her journey, but I wanted to do all I could to support her – no matter the distance between us.

(Photos: Here, left to right at back: Ahmed’s brother-in-law Omar, his older sister Zainab, Ahmed, his wife Vian, his younger sister Yasameen. Kids in front, left to right: Ahmed’s nephew Laith, son Hasan, and daughter Rose. Top, left to right: Vian, Ahmed’s mother and Yasameen with Ahmed.)

Settling my family in a new country, miles away from my dear sister undergoing treatment for a life-altering disease, I had a lot of stress and worry to carry. Soon, I began yearning for a way to give back in honor of my sister. I was also in need of something positive, inspiring even, to look towards.

Soon, I discovered OneWalk to Conquer Cancer benefiting the Alberta Cancer Foundation, a 25-kilometre walk through the streets and communities of Calgary and an inspiring festival experience, to raise vital funds and help beat all forms of cancer.

Every day, 43 people in this province I now call home hear the words “you have cancer.” I wanted to walk to support all the patients currently fighting and to support my brave sister. For my 2016 fundraising campaign, my mantra was, “For admiring the brave survivors, for honoring the taken and for supporting the fighters. I am with you and I know what you are suffering. You can beat this with hope, faith, and courage.”

With the support of old and new friends, the community in Calgary I was beginning to know, and family from Canada and back home, I was able to reach and exceed my fundraising goal.

Supporting OneWalk was an amazing way for me to pay it forward and support the community and my new home country that have given me the feeling that I am at home and safe. Words cannot describe how my participation in OneWalk made my sister feel when she learned I journeyed throughout Calgary for her.

Unfortunately, even after such a heartwarming experience, my mother was diagnosed with uterine and ovarian cancers in in July 2016. She underwent surgery and chemotherapy at the American Private Hospital in Dubai.

It seems our family, and many other families here in Canada and back home in Dubai, can never catch a break. It’s like this disease is trying to tear us apart, but I know we won’t stop fighting.

Already, I’ve committed to walking 25-kilometres in the 2017 OneWalk to Conquer Cancer benefiting the Alberta Cancer Foundation. I hope a happy ending will come for my mother, too. I am dreaming of the day she will hear the words, “You are cancer free.”

Right now, my sister is waiting for her immigrant visa to Canada, and my parents’ visiting visa is pending at the Canadian Embassy. It is our hope that we will see each other at the OneWalk finish line in June. It’s so hard to be separated from people you love, watching them battle cancer on the other side of he world.

Regardless of what the future brings, I will remain hopeful knowing my new community here in Calgary will meet me at the OneWalk finish line to celebrate the impact we’re making, together.

This is #1000families post number 219. Do you have a family story of your own to contribute to the 1,000 Families Project? Or do you know a family that might want to do so? Learn more about how the series got started and how to get involved here. You can find all of the #1000families posts here.

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Ahmed Al-Obeidi

About

Ahmed Al-Obeidi is a civil engineer, father of two and second-time participant in OneWalk to Conquer Cancer benefiting the Alberta Cancer Foundation. In 2015, Ahmed moved with his wife and two kids from Dubai to Calgary, Alberta. Funds raised through OneWalk to Conquer Cancer support breakthrough cancer research, clinical trials, enhanced care and the discovery of new cancer therapies at the Tom Baker Cancer Centre, Cross Cancer Institute and 15 other centers across Alberta.


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