“Cancer,” Zaid says as he stands in front of his third-grade class giving a presentation, “is a disease that makes the body cells abnormal and divide without control.”
Only nine years old, Zaid is a cancer survivor at a very young age and living proof that cancer does not mean death.
Zaid was only one year and seven months old when he was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) in late 2006. One day, he was playing about like any toddler his age when he suddenly fell down. “It was only a slight fall,” his mother recalls, “but he reacted by crying and screaming with pain, which was very uncharacteristic of him.”
Within a month, Zaid’s health got worse. He had developed a major lung infection and so his parents rushed him to a hospital in Amman. One of the doctors there took his parents aside and recommended that Zaid take a biopsy at the King Hussein Cancer Center (KHCC).
The biopsy results unfortunately revealed that Zaid had cancer. Zaid’s mother simply could not accept the news. “I was completely shocked. I kept thinking they must have mixed up the results.”
The doctors at KHCC sat with Zaid’s parents and reassured them that even though treatment would be long (three and a half years), Zaid’s chances of recovery were really good.
“Deep down, I was still not convinced that Zaid could actually make it through. I thought it was the end. We were taught nothing about cancer and all this new information was overwhelming to absorb.” Zaid’s mother spent the next week crying constantly and in a deep depression, until one day, the mother of another cancer patient who shared the same hospital room as Zaid gave her a much-needed reality check.
“She basically told me to snap out of it and be strong,” Zaid’s mom remembers with a smile. “I was blown away by her positive attitude, and seeing other parents at KHCC going through the same thing and being so supportive of each other made me realize that we were not alone in this.”
Thankfully, the doctors were right; Zaid responded very well to his cancer treatment and in 2010, much to the absolute joy and relief of his family, he completed it.
“This whole experience taught us so much. For one thing, I knew practically nothing about cancer before Zaid was diagnosed, except that it led to death. Now I know this is absolutely not true and I wanted to let the entire world know too,” says Zaid’s mother. “I encouraged Zaid to give a presentation about his cancer journey to his class because I want him to be proud of being a survivor. There is no shame in cancer.”
When Zaid decided to share his story, everyone around him was very supportive. In fact Zaid’s teachers liked his presentation so much, they asked him to repeat it again in front of the entire school.
Today, Zaid is a bright and confident kid who wants to be just like his father when he grows up. More importantly, the love of his family and the support of the community around him enable him to stand tall and say, “My name is Zaid, and I won my battle with cancer.”