Overcoming Cancer with Faith, Love and Care

Ensure equal access to best available cancer treatment and care in Armenia for children with low socioeconomic status diagnosed with cancer.

  • July 11, 2023
  • Mediamax
  • 8 photo(s)

The most awaited sound in the Hematology Center named after Professor R. Yolyan is the ringing of the bell that every child rings at the end of their treatment, hanging their own photo on the tree with the pictures of other heroic children who have overcome cancer. That day becomes a holiday for everyone: children, parents and medical staff. Six-year-old Maria, who is in the third stage of her treatment, has already chosen a place for her photo on the photo tree. Despite her age, Maria knows exactly what profession she will choose.

“I really like treating dolls. When I grow up, I want to become a doctor to perform surgeries and treat people in that way,” Maria says.

In December last year, Maria's mother, Ani, received a call from the daycare nurse  who expressed her concerns about the child's health. Ani immediately went to the daycare center and took Maria for a medical checkup. The child was misdiagnosed, which Ani realized only when she saw lumps in the groin area while dressing the little girl. They went to the polyclinic to see a doctor again and were referred to the Hematology Center named after Professor R. Yolyan.

“At the hematology center, we were told that we could go home after medical examination, and we would know the results in three days. However, shortly  I received another call with a request to go back to the center. Maria was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. The  results were very bad: an increased number of white blood cells, 94% spread rate,” Ani says.

According to her, the first stage of the disease was very difficult. There was a high probability that Maria would need a stem cell transplantation, but Ani continued to hope for a miracle and prayed.

“After the very high spread rate, the results of our last test came back clear. The doctors were very surprised. It was God’s miracle. I was constantly telling myself that there was no way for us to come out of this ordeal defeated. I prayed constantly and put my faith in God completely. In my prayers, I said to the Lord that Maria was His creation, so only He knew what was right for her. I found strength in my faith and was sure that God's miracle would happen,” Ani says.

Ani believes that words have great power, so we should always think positive and talk about good things. A parent inevitably understands that the process is full of hardships, but it is important to instill hope and faith from the very beginning, and one will  overcome the challenges.

“Maria is very strong. It is important for her to know what the doctors are going to do, and she won’t resist. I always tell her the truth about what to expect, whether they are going to draw blood, put her under anesthesia, or something else. At first, it was very stressful for her when her hair started to fall out – she had long and thick hair – but I explained that it was the effect of the drugs. Now she understands everything and  no longer has insecurities about it. The atmosphere is also very warm. Maria likes to come to the center to meet with the children and doctors here. Even when she knows that she is going to feel bad after taking the medicine, she never asks me to take her home,” Ani elaborates.

Along with Maria, 10-year-old Tigran is also receiving treatment at the Hematology Center. In February, Tigran developed a cough, and the doctors referred him to the Hematology Center. Tigran's mother, Ani, says that the first stage of overcoming the disease was the most harrowing, but all the parents here are there for each other, providing support and comfort.

“Tigran was diagnosed with T-cell lymphoma. I was in so much emotional pain, but the first results of the computed tomography (CT) scan showed very positive dynamics. I can barely find words to describe the emotions of our doctor, Lusine Slavikovna. She wasn’t expecting such immediate change, either. After that, I started to see the light and was filled with faith,” says Ani.

Initially, it was very difficult for Tigran as well. When he first came to the center and saw other children with their hair fallen out, he was hesitant to go inside, but little by little everything started to change.

“Now, when new children arrive, Tigran runs to them and starts encouraging them. When their hair starts falling out, he says, ‘It's okay, it will fall out, and then better hair will grow back.’ There are wigs here to cheer up the children . Once, Tigran put on one of the wigs and was cheering everyone up. When he sees  a sad face, he starts comforting and explaining what is going to happen. Here, a small cozy corner has been set up for us; the parents, the children, as well as the medical staff, are very caring towards each other. All the doctors fight for the life of each one of the children, investing all their efforts and abilities,” Ani adds.

She advises the parents going through the same experience not to despair, but to show strong will and always think positive.

With God's blessing, Maria and Tigran will soon finish their treatment, ring the bell and go home. But unfortunately, the number of people coming to the center has increased dramatically in the last year. The dynamics of blood cancer diagnoses in Armenia is worrying.

From the very beginning, the doctors tell all the parents  to focus only on the treatment of their children and not to concern themselves about financial issues. The treatment takes a long time and is quite expensive, but the City of Smile foundation takes care of this fully.

The foundation supports all children and young people under 25 years of age diagnosed with cancer and receiving treatment in Armenia. It covers all the treatment costs. The chairman of the Board of Trustees of the City of Smile Charitable Foundation is Archbishop Bagrat Galstanyan, who visits the children regularly.

According to the executive director of City of Smile, Esther Demirchyan, in 2019-2021, about 105–110 families applied to the foundation, while in 2022 the number was 148, an increase of about 25%.

“We have assumed the responsibility of helping all families in overcoming this complex disease. Most of our beneficiaries do not have sufficient financial means. Since the treatment takes long  and is expensive, it can put even quite well-off families in financial difficulties, so our board of trustees decided not to let this happen and to provide full support to absolutely everyone. In order to properly fulfill this responsibility, we are constantly looking for supporters, because neither one or two, nor even ten organizations can cover expenses of such magnitude. Our supporters are individuals who make monthly donations starting from 1000 drams, as well as corporate partners who donate larger amounts. I am very happy that in the last two years, the Izmirlian Foundation joined the ranks of our supporters, and both its management and the board of trustees attached importance to the work we are doing ,” she says.

According to Esther Demirchyan, with the support of the Izmirlian Foundation three children received treatment last year, and this year four children are receiving treatment.

“I highly appreciate this cooperation also for the reason that it has become ongoing. We have selected children from border areas, large families and families receiving social benefits. Without financial support, most of these children would not have been able to receive treatment, so the program is truly life-saving. Praise be to God, thanks to collaborations like this, we have not rejected a single child, nor have we put anyone on the waiting list,” she added.


Although it is still too early to predict the number of patients this year, the foundation is hopeful that it will go down. However, continued support and donations are very important to the foundation to ensure that no child is left without the necessary treatment.

“The more people there are  ready to provide support even without knowing these children, the more confident we shall be in our efforts to fulfill the responsibility we have assumed. After all, it is not cancer that is contagious, but love is,” the executive director of the foundation concludes.

You can make a monthly donation to the City of Smile Foundation following this link.

The Izmirlian Foundation has been implementing numerous charitable and development projects in education, healthcare, social welfare, innovation, tourism and other sectors in Armenia and Artsakh since 1990, aiming to support the socio-economic development of Armenia and Artsakh. The Izmirlian Foundation remains committed to continuing to implement varied philanthropic projects moving forward in line with Armenia’s ongoing challenges and developments.