Having beaten cancer twice, Sameer Ahmed isn’t one to back down from challenges.
The 31-year-old, who has lived in Qatar for five years, is an avid climber who has been working to raise awareness about cancer in the community.
Next year, he is planning to take a group of residents to the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro to raise funds for cancer charities.
Speaking to Doha News, Ahmed explained his motivations for creating Climb Over Cancer, which targets Qatar’s male residents.
“I realized that many people in Qatar don’t actually talk about cancer, and if they do, it’s usually breast cancer,” Ahmed said. “Awareness is more focused towards women; it’s like men can’t get cancer.”
Ahmed was first diagnosed with Hodgkin Lymphoma seven years ago, at the age of 24 while at home in Canada.
The shocking news galvanized him into action, he recalled:
“My first thought was that I had to do something about it. I couldn’t just sit there and let it do what it was doing to me. I thought: there’s so much I still have left to do, so many things I have left to achieve. That desire never left me.”
As he recovered from his second bout of Hodgkin Lymphoma – a relapse a year after his first diagnosis – his cousin, a keen climber, suggested he join him for a trip.
So the pair planned a visit to Aconcagua in Argentina, the highest mountain in the southern hemisphere, for when he was feeling better.
Originally, he planned the challenge for personal reasons – “to say that I could do something physically I didn’t think I could do” – but later, Ahmed decided to use his climb to raise awareness.
Through Climb Over Cancer, the expat also hopes to educate people about the importance of prevention and early detection, and to reinforce that cancer is not an automatic death sentence.
“I didn’t want people to think that if they had cancer, their life was over,” he said.
Ahmed set off to climb Aconcagua in December last year.
It was the five-year anniversary of him being declared free from cancer – an anniversary of great significance.
“I felt I had to do something, to tell the world that I was ok,” he said.
His ascent was supported by several companies in Qatar, including Go Sport and The Look.
Additionally, Aspire’s Aspetar Hospital allowed him to sleep in one of their special altitude chambers to help prepare him for climbing to the summit.
He used social media to share his progress on the climb and to promote his cause.
However, Ahmed never made it to the top of Aconcagua. Very high winds made the ascent impossible.
“We stayed above 5400 meters for four days waiting for the weather to change, but it didn’t change, and when your body is at that altitude for that long, there’s no way to go down and go up again. So we had to make that choice.”
Ahmed is undeterred, however. He now plans to tackle Tanzania’s Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa, in 2017.
This time, he wants to take a team of people from Qatar with him, and raise funds as well as awareness. He is now talking to the Qatar Cancer Society about a partnership.
Ahmed already has a couple of people lined up for the trip, but he is still seeking further climbing companions:
“I would like to get a group of people together, from different backgrounds,” he told us. “People who have dealt with cancer, or who have had family with cancer. People with their own individual story.”