Palestine Among Highest in Cancer Diagnosis: BethBC Students Take Action
Someone so dear to my heart who has been battling cancer for years, told me once:
“People are usually sick and tired from their daily routine, and they want some change, you see? Mankind takes everything for granted. Well, for me it is a dream now to have my routine back: to be able to wake up on a normal morning and prepare my own cup of coffee!”
This horrible, fatal disease is taking the lives, dreams and futures of our loved ones. It is highly increasing among Palestinians even now.
This one is for all the fighters out there! I’m going to call them fighters not patients because they are true warriors who are fighting battles they didn’t choose!
High Cancer Diagnosis
The Middle East region, to which Palestine belongs, is one of the highest in the world regarding cancer diagnoses, according to the Arab Doctors Union.
In the last four years, cancer has been ranked second in Palestine as a cause of death after cardiovascular disease. Palestinian deaths from cancer accounted for 13.3% of all deaths.
The incidence of cancer in Palestine is 80.3 new cases per 100,000 people in the population per year. The most common cause of death out of all cancer types was lung cancer among males, breast cancer among females, while leukemia was the most common type of cancer for children.
The Palestinian Ministry of Health pointed out that 34.4% of cases of cancer occurred in the age group over 65 years old. The proportion of this category of the total population is only 2.9%. They also recorded 59.8% of cases in the age group of 15-64 years old, which is the population of the working class. Finally, 6.8% of the cases were registered under the age of 15.
There are behavioral factors that contribute to the development of cancer, especially smoking and tobacco use in all its forms, as well as alcohol, and not eating enough fruits and vegetables. In addition, there is also obesity and lack of physical activity to account for as factors. A study of 1,037 new cancer cases diagnosed between 2005 and 2008 in the northern West Bank governorates showed that 85% of them did not exercise.
BethBC Students Take Action
Earlier this month, the 4th of February, was World Cancer Day, which aims to save millions from preventable deaths each year by raising awareness and educating people about cancer. It also encourages governments and individuals across the world to take action against the disease.
Our students took action, and visited four different cancer survivors in the Bethlehem area. They wanted to celebrate victory with those who fought fiercely for their lives and survived.
The students also visited a girl from Gaza who’s fighting cancer as well. Her name is Ritaj, and she has cancer in her spinal cord. She became blind as a result of fighting cancer.
She lives with her mother now in a hospital in Jerusalem for the past 100 days. Her treatment expenses are all covered, but her living expenses with her mother are not, so, they are living under very hard circumstances. They are quite poor, and living in Jerusalem is very expensive. So, the mom went on the radio on one of the local radio shows, and asked for help in all ways, financially and emotionally.
Ritaj is 4 years old, she is the only daughter in the family, she is very smart, loves music and butterflies.
Our students heard the radio show, and acted immediately. They went and visited Ritaj and her mom in the hospital in Jerusalem, and brought her many goodies and food, encouraged her, and promised that they will be visiting her during her stay in the hospital.
Those visits were remarkable to our students, and they have learned not to take anything in their lives for granted. They learned that God is the only one we can count on, and they have embraced that they are alive, loved, healthy, and are able to give love to others. They left wanting to enjoy every moment of their lives, and they said that they want to search for what makes them and others happy. Most importantly, they wanted to draw closer to God, the only “Jehovah Rapha.”
It is true that Palestine is among the highest in cancer diagnoses, and numbers are increasing every year! It is true that we have lost many of our loved ones to this disease; but people are fighting it, they are holding on and fighting for their lives.
To you who are in good health: don’t take it for granted. Live each day as a gift from God. Give thanks to Him all the time for the smallest things you have. Do what makes your heart jump for joy. Tell your loved ones that you love them every time you get the chance.
To all of you out there who are fighting for your lives: we fight with you; we feel your pain, and we stand with you through prayer. Hold on to the Great Healer, Jesus Christ. He is the only one who is able to comfort you and give you strength through these hard times!
Amira is the Communications Coordinator of Bethlehem Bible College. She is a committed Palestinian Christian who has a passion for writing about the intersection of faith and seeking justice for her fellow countrymen. To read more of her writings sign up for Bethlehem Bible College’s monthly newsletter.