KARACHI: A young Pakistani child started sharing life’s fleeting moments on YouTube from the confines of a small room in his multistory residence in Karachi’s Baldia Town neighborhood after discovering that he was suffering from a debilitating disease.
Owais Shehzad, only nine years old, has been battling cancer for the last five years. Despite enduring intensely painful medical treatments, he found solace in dancing and creating videos, portraying himself as any other fun-loving child.
“I could neither eat nor drink, and I lost my hair and eyebrows due to chemotherapy,” he recalled, as he started reflecting on the days of enduring severe cancer treatment that caused mouth inflammation and painful blisters. “I lost my nails. It seemed like I was an alien who had come from another planet.”
“I was half-dead, yet I managed to handle the disease,” he added with a degree of pride. “My eyes sunk deep, and I could neither eat nor drink due to the blisters.”
Owais’s battle with cancer hasn’t stopped since he has been diagnosed with a type of blood cancer in which the harmful pathogens never truly go away. However, the painful treatments he endured over the last five years have kept him alive.
His passion for dance also brought him happiness even in the darkest moments, and he served as an inspiration to fellow cancer patients at the hospital.
“My bone marrow test was done and fluid was drained through an IV injection in my back,” he said. “Even in that situation, I was dancing on the bed... I was motivating children, and they were happy to see me.”
“Not only did it cheer me up, but it also brought happiness to the entire Indus Hospital, the children in the cancer ward, and my parents as well,” he reminisced.
Owais admitted to shedding tears, however, when he closed the door of his room, not wanting his parents to be hurt by his struggles.
He said that the road ahead remained uncertain, though he had always wanted to adopt a joyful and enthusiastic approach to life.
Nadeem Shehzad, Owais’s father and a local journalist, acknowledged that his son’s resilience uplifted the spirits of other parents when they were feeling weak.
“As a father, it was extremely difficult to witness my son in pain,” he told Arab News. “Whenever our strength and spirits wavered, we received a boost by witnessing the spirit and strength of this child.”
He informed that Owais had been diagnosed with B-all type blood cancer, with a recovery ratio ranging from two to five percent, which necessitates constant care to keep him alive.
“While treatment and care can prolong his life, the germs still remain in his body, and without complete care, they can become active at any time,” Nadeem explained, adding that it was also the reason why his son could not continue attending school.
Despite being unable to pursue education in a formal setting due to health issues, Owais’s passion for compels him to wear a school uniform and keep a bag at home.
“I wish to go to school,” he said. “However, my disease is such that I can neither sit nor stand due to the injections.”
Last year, the nine-year-old had one of his longstanding desires fulfilled when he embarked on a journey to Saudi Arabia for the Umrah pilgrimage.
“I had always wished to perform Umrah, to visit the house of Allah and witness His divine abode. Allah granted me an invitation... The experience of Umrah was truly amazing, and now I also aspire to perform Hajj,” he shared with gratitude.
Owais believes that those who remain happy even in sickness bring joy to God as well.
“May Allah grant me a long life, but whatever life I have, I’m living it to the fullest,” he said. “Currently, I am embracing life with utmost spirit and enthusiasm.”
He added that he harbors deep love for both journalism and the army, making his professional destination uncertain in life.
“Let’s see which of these two paths life takes me on,” he smiled.