While medical advances are being made every day, cancer still remains a shattering diagnosis. In the case of Radwa Moussa and her family, however, when they learned that their young son had the dreaded disease, they turned the scary ordeal on its head. They embraced the fight and in the process became a beacon of hope to other cancer patients. eniGma’s Nayera Yasser got the chance to sit down with Moussa to learn about her family’s journey with cancer and about the book she authored on the subject.

The family’s six-year journey with cancer started when a persistent fever accompanied by a foot-ache that wouldn’t let go of their eldest son, Zein, when he was just 6 years old.  Shortly thereafter, the family was confronted with the cancer diagnosis. After undergoing a number of experimental treatments and numerous chemo sessions, little Zein miraculously defied statistics and successfully overcame four different types of cancer.

Thankful for their good fortune and eager to have others benefit from their family’s experience, Zein’s mother, decided to tell the story of their battle with cancer in her first book, Zein: A Story of Darkness and Light.  In the book, Radwa Moussa revisits their long nights of despair, as well as their phenomenal moments of victory. The first-time author adopted an intimate approach in her writing, inviting her readers to share their most challenging days from their rollercoaster experience.

“The book is about the bigger message, how, as a family, we managed to survive the ordeal, including all of the fun moments. I hope it can help anyone going through a life-changing experience that might shake their faith,” says Moussa.

While a wide audience already got the chance to follow Zein’s journey with cancer through his Facebook page, Moussa’s book sheds a welcome light on the family’s inspirational mantra to remain united, optimistic and loyal to their joy of life.

“My husband and I have divided our life into life before cancer and life after cancer. When I look back at the time before cancer, I can hardly even recognise the person I used to be. Cancer changed everything in our life. It put things into perspective,” says Moussa, noting that the experience made her accept the fact that she could not plan everything in life. “My biggest lesson was how to cope with the changes and losing interest in any materialistic gains,” she adds. As they went through twists and turns in the struggle with their son’s cancer, the family chose to overcome their darkest moments with unwavering positivity.

In her book, Moussa explains that, as a family, they managed to acquire a rather unconventional sense of humor. “After Zein’s fourth chemo session, we all got dressed up to take a picture, which we captioned, ‘Cancer is serious but we can keep laughing at it.’ It is how we got through the hard times as a family. We are not in denial; we are very aware of the hardships. Yet we still laugh in the face of everything,” she explains. Moussa advises her readers not to let their fear of tomorrow steal their joy today. She takes them from what she considered one silver lining to the next, all the while emphasising the importance of seizing the day.

During her recent visit to Cairo for the launch of her heart-warming book at the 50th Cairo International Book Fair, Moussa was keen to visit the event with her son, Zein.  In the midst of the commotion at the fair, she and Zein exchanged brimming smiles, as she turned her attention to the crowd lining up for her book signing.  One by one, those in line shared their own personal experiences with her as she signed their copies.

“It was amazing. I left in tears. It was overwhelmingly beautiful,” says Moussa. She recounts how she met a group of college students who came all the way from another city to tell her about their initiative to support cancer patients within their community. “I also met a man who told me that he prays every night for Zein’s recovery,” she exclaims, with teary eyes. Believing in the importance of empowering kids rather than scaring them from cancer, Moussa was glad that her son got to meet many of his supporters. “Seeing this supportive community in real life is quite empowering for him,” says Moussa with a big smile.

Radwa Moussa used to run a real-estate business with her husband in the US before cancer knocked on their door.  She now also manages her own NGO, Create a Smile.  “While other organisations mostly provide financial and medical aid, we decided to provide something as simple as a smile. A smile for a cancer child can carry him through many tough moments,” she explains. Their mission, therefore, became to create simple moments, which can help young patients forget the pain, the chemo, the x-rays and to just smile like any other child. “Whether it is a birthday party or an iPad, we try to make it happen,” she adds.