Zara's Journey: Celebrating 5 Years Cancer-Free at Christmas
Meet Zara, a former patient at GOSH International. Zara and her family recently visited GOSH International Private Care for her annual check-up, celebrating an incredible 5 years cancer-free! We caught up with Zara, alongside her dad David, mom Sana, and sister Isabella, to chat about their annual visit to London and festive traditions.
Zara’s journey to GOSH
In June 2016, one-year-old Zara came to GOSH International with a rare and aggressive cancer called metastatic rhabdoid tumour, often found in young children. On December 19, 2017, Zara joyfully rang her end-of-treatment bell—a significant milestone set during their early days at the Butterfly ward at GOSH.
Five years later, Zara and her family have not only celebrated her triumph over cancer but also embraced life's many blessings.
Since ringing the bell, Zara has achieved remarkable milestones:
- Completed nursery and transitioned to junior school, now thriving in Year 3.
- Explored her artistic side with taking up Art and Piano.
- Loves beach activities like surfing and swimming.
- Defied concerns of hearing loss from chemotherapy treatments.
- Welcomed a little sister, Isabella, shortly before her 4th birthday.
- Developed into the sweetest, most compassionate little angel, as noted in her class reports.
How does it feel to be back at GOSH?
Dad: Being back at Gosh is something that brings mixed emotions. We got much more positive reasons for visiting now. But it's not difficult to be back here and remember the difficult times when Zara was being treated here. We nearly lost her.
Mum: But at the same time, we remember, the love, the hope, the outcome, obviously, and the amazing place that GOSH is. It's where all the hope had started and as David said, we almost lost Zara. But the second we got to GOSH, we saw all the love that the nurses and the consultants were giving us and all the hope that we got. It's just a different place. I keep telling people about it, and how amazing this place is.
What are your plans for the Christmas/festive period this year?
Dad: We will be in London for a few weeks before Christmas and always visit Covent Garden and Oxford Street for the decorations and Winter Wonderland for the experience. We will be back home for Christmas. But December 19th is the anniversary of Zara ringing the end of treatment bell and we always have a Christmas and bell party where we invite all of our friends over for a massive dinner.
As an expat, how would you describe your experience celebrating Christmas?
Dad: There isn’t a lot of snow in the Persian Gulf but Dubai does make an effort for Christmas so there is a festive spirit. For us it is a family time and we spend time together at home and in the garden.
What festive activities do you do at home to evoke a sense of Christmas?
Mum: We put up a tree, decorate the house, bake Christmas biscuits and the Elves are with us every December to keep track of what the girls are doing.
Are there any cultural traditions you incorporate into your celebrations?
Dad: We have made Bell Day our own tradition and celebrate this during the Christmas period as a time to give thanks.
How do you plan to connect with family during the Christmas period?
Dad: We will be seeing some family in the UK just before Christmas and close friends will visit us at home over Christmas.
Do you have any tips for fellow expats on how to embrace the Christmas spirit while living away from their home country?
Dad: Make a point of having a Christmas tree, everything sort of flows from there and it immediately sets the spirit of the holiday.
What activities do you have in mind for the season while you're in London? Any sightseeing plans?
Mum: All the Christmas activities! Lights, hot chocolates and if we are lucky some snow in the parks.
Zara, what is your favourite thing about the Christmas period?
Zara: When the elves come and play tricks on me and Isabella
What is your favourite food to eat at this time of year?
Zara: Pasta, Pizza and rice and chicken. Like the rest of the year
What did you ask Father Christmas for?
Zara: A microscope or a 3D pen
What are your Christmas & New Year's wishes?
Zara: To see the Northern Lights
Is there anything you’d like to say to the children who are treating here at GOSH?
Zara: Be brave and keep fighting. Get better soon.