The Warrior Race

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It is a word they exorcised long ago. A word once feared and dreaded. To these women, cancer is relegated to the lower ranks – banished to the gallows. And treated as nothing more important than a monthly period, a cold, a temporary illness. That very attitude starts this battle that is won at the very first time it is detected. What it takes is exemplary courage and a warrior spirit that reduces the big monster to a mere disease to be dealt with. A war fought valiantly regardless of age, nationality, social rank or familial responsibilities. Femina ME 4 Cancer spoke to a few warriors who fought hard and defeated cancer



Fakhria Lutfi

Nationality : Emirati
Occupation : Former Media Professional
I was 42 years old when I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2004. I had gone in for a regular check up when they found lumps in my right breast and then told me that it had progressed quite a bit. The shock that followed was what had me going in to get a second opinion. And I’m glad I did. The doctor took one look at my X-Rays and told me that I didn’t actually have to waste time or money on a second opinion and that if I wanted to live, I had to buck up and get treated. And that was the moment for me. The moment I knew I was going to be just fine. People react so negatively to cancer. All they believe is that if you’ve got the disease, a death sentence is what follows. But hearing the doctor tell me that I would live is what gave me the will to fight.

A couple of days later I made the decision to leave the country for my treatment. It’s not that I didn’t have faith in the options provided here. I just didn’t think it was right to subject my children to seeing me in that condition. I kept the whole thing to quiet that even my mother didn’t know why I was flying to London. My sister was the only person I told. The rest all thought that work had sent me there for training. By November of that year, I was scheduled for surgery and my first day of chemotherapy was the 4th of January 2005. In between that time, I had my children come and visit me over the winter break. It was the first time they had visited London and were incredibly excited. I used the time I had with them to explain that I had cancer but that I was going to be okay. With their eyes filled with tears they asked me if I was going to die and I promised them that, while I will some day, cancer would not be the cause of it. I told them that I just wasn’t going to let the disease beat me. I also remember focusing on my belief that it is not a disease that kills. That when it is time, it just is time.

By the summer of 2005, it was time for my radiation. My children came to visit me over their break and while it was really heart warming to see them, I didn’t want them to just sit with me and mope. So I made arrangements for them to go to the theatre. My daughter loves plays so it was a great experience for them. Everyday, while I was in the hospital undergoing radiation treatment, they would go out and explore. And then in the evening, we wouldTeacherspend time together. It was important that they see me be strong for them, to see me in a good condition.
At the end of September of that year, I was done with my treatment and we all flew back. I resumed work while still under heavy medication. For six years I continued taking the tablets prescribed but the side effects sometimes felt worse than the chemotherapy and radiation combined! So when my doctor told me that I could stop if I wanted to, I jumped on the opportunity to be myself again.

Mentally, I’ve been in remission since day one. I’ve never been the kind that was okay with pity. And through the process, I realised that surrounding myself with positivity was what got me through it all.

Through my treatment, I learnt a few lessons. I found out who my true friends are. I was blessed that the disease showed me those that really care. And this helped with knowing that I was not alone in this battle. I also learnt to love myself more. I used to be the kind of person that would try very hard to please others. Now, I put myself first.



Naima Thompson

Nationality: Trinidad and Tobago
Occupation: International Drama Teacherspend
I am a proud survivor of stage one breast cancer with the memories forever etched in my mind, body, and soul.

A lump in my breast. An excisional biopsy. A malignant tumor. I can’t understand any of the words that the doctors are saying. HER2-positive. Human epidermal growth factor receptor. Gene mutation. I feel like my life is spiraling out of control. Chemotherapy. Radiation therapy. Me? No way! I’m a healthy and fit 47-year-old. Memories of my beautiful mother fill my heart and my mind. She passed from colon cancer, the ugliest of diseases that she never deserved, just eight years ago. And now me? I did not want to die.

This past year has been the greatest struggle of my life, an emotional roller coaster, and an agonizing experience. Yet, I refuse to live under a cloud of negativity. I still have too much to offer the world. Even on the darkest of mornings, when all I want to do is hide my head under the pillow with tears running down my cheeks, I force myself out of bed to greet the day. The pain is deep in my bones. I get up. I shower. I dress. I eat. And sometimes that’s as far as I make it; but I did it! I conquered one more day.

I will not be defined by my cancer. You can have my hair. You can rob me of all my energy. You can create a waterfall of tears, but you cannot steal my dignity. It’s my life. I am more powerful than you, you ugly cancer. I have a steel pan to play. I have student plays to direct. I have journal entries, short stories, plays and novels to write. I have a treadmill calling out my name. I have film festivals to attend. I have karaoke songs to sing. And I have friendships to nurture, a vast network of good people around the world, who are cheering, praying and encouraging me everyday. I am truly blessed.
Herceptin. Tamoxifen. These scary words don’t frighten me. I am a cancer warrior. I am a leader. I am a pink lady. I am a teacher. I am a sister. I am a best friend. I am a Lioness. I am a survivor. I am all this and much more by the Grace of God.
For my sisters still in the trenches in the battle against cancer, I say with conviction, maintain a positive attitude, embrace the journey to wellness with a fighting spirit, and you too will overcome the obstacles of this seemingly insurmountable beast.



Umaima Tinwala

Nationality: Indian
Occupation: Writer/Editor, Content Specialist
I still remember that fateful Saturday evening. My daughter was with her father for the day, so I was taking a nap, recharging my batteries before the start of the week. My phone rings, and I answer, as it is my sister calling from
India – she is on her way back to Dubai with her family. In a shaky voice, she tells me, “Don’t worry. It will be fine. We will deal with it. You will be fine.” I say okay, and hang up, no idea what she is talking about. As I close my eyes, I think about why she said what she said, and then I realise that she probably got the results from
my biopsy.

Background – In November 2013, just a little after my birthday, I was in the shower, when I felt a lump in my left breast. It was small but it frightened me. Next day, I didn’t feel it anymore, so I was relieved, until it was back the day after. Even though my mother had fought and lost the battle with cancer a year before, as had my aunt, I was too afraid to even go and get it checked. Maybe it was because I knew what cancer does to you that I didn’t want to face the fact that I may have it. I went on a family holiday in December, celebrating Christmas at Disneyland. I finally mustered the courage to visit the gynaecologist in January, and was again relieved when she told me that it was too much on the surface to be anything, but I should get an MRI anyway.

There were no breast MRI services in Dubai at the time, well, only one, and they didn’t have a doctor, so I decided to fly down to India with my daughter during her mid-term break and get the check done. The MRI didn’t work out, but as soon as the doctor saw my mammography and sonography image, she knew something was wrong, and scheduled me for a biopsy the very next day. I flew back to Dubai, and my father went and collected my reports, which showed a
malignant tumour.

Caught at stage 1, the tumour was 1.5 cms in size, so surgery was the first step, followed by Chemotherapy for three months, Radiotherapy for two and a half months, and Herclon for a year.

I am a survivor. That word means more than just that ‘I beat cancer’. No one can truly understand what chemo does to your body and your spirit. You live through hell each day, and the effects never quite go away.

It would be a lie to say I am okay. My eyesight is failing, my bones are de-calcified such that I have osteoporosis in my spine, my hormonal treatment leaves me with crazy mood swings, and don’t even get me started on muscle pains.

But I am not only alive, I am thriving. The people who were toxic in my life finally showed their true colours and I was able to identify the difference between blood relatives and family. The illness forced me to slow down at work. I realised that the world will not end if I don’t answer every email, every Whatsapp message immediately. I learnt that someone else can do my job, and different does not mean better or worse. My relationship with my daughter has never been better. As she moves into her teens, I am more of a friend to her than a mother, as she has to share everything with me. A lot of people who had fallen by the wayside came back with outpourings of love and affection. People around the world fasted for me, walked marathons in my name, prayed for me, and that is what has brought me here.

My sister and my father have been my biggest strengths. They never left me alone for a minute, and few people realise how tough it was for them, to deal with cancer again after fighting alongside my mother for nine years. The supporters – family and friends – are the unsung heroes in the patient’s fight against cancer.

My daughter is literally the embodiment of my will to live. She has become my mother – ensuring I take my medicines every day, applying sprays when it aches, keeping me entertained when depression hits, and most importantly, telling me every day how beautiful I am, from the bald days to the present. Would you believe she is only 11?

It may sound odd, but in spite of everything, I am blessed that Allah has given me the opportunity to understand and realise what truly matters in life. I spend every day reminding myself of this, and even though, as a human, I do get caught up with the material world, I always take a step back in bed and thank Him for everything, promising I will make tomorrow count for more.



Daniella Russell

Nationality: British
Occupation: Wellness Consultant
Once I was diagnosed with breast cancer, all I wanted to know was why. I needed to understand what had created this disease in my body. I did have an inkling, I knew that my hectic lifestyle contributed to it. But I had to know more.

Having undergone surgery to remove the lumps, I was advised to go through chemotherapy, radiation and take medication. But my gut reaction was not one of comfort with this option. So, I decided to research my alternatives. My choice was to go the natural healing way rather than the conventional medical route.

I began a journey of new patterns by introducing daily juicing routines, less stress, more exercise, more laughter, less work and anxiety and lots of love and happiness, all supported by excellent doctors, family, loved ones and friends who all gave their unconditional love and care. To assist all of this, I have a good selection of supplements, regular relaxation treatments, comedy club outings, I do the things I love and spend quality time with the people I enjoy being with.

On average, I consume one- two juices a day and often take weekends off. Every so often, I do a few days of juicing only to help clear my system for the days I overload or if I travel a lot. Now a days, daily life has many heavy chemicals within it, so, I assist where possible to prevent this toxic build up in my system. I try to buy organic foods, especially vegetables and fruit. I also try my hardest to cut out sugar and this is my toughest aspect as I have a very sweet tooth. But cancer loves sugar! I try to exercise daily, in some form or another. This is also hard for me because I am really lazy but I know I need to get oxygen into my blood stream, as cancer cannot live on oxygen. I do not use aluminum antiperspirant as this clogs up the lymphatic system and poisons the blood stream. I only use perfume on my clothes, rather than on my body, because of the chemicals that can pollute me. I try to go to comedy clubs to enjoy the laughter around me, as this is a precious gift that releases endorphins into the blood stream, which is good for the immune system and relaxes the body. I sit in the sun for 15 minutes every day to top up on Vitamin D.

There are so many small but effective things you can do to help yourself and prevent or cure conditions, but it takes effort. Once the effort is put in, it is worth every second. Life is precious and it is given to us to enjoy and experience fully, in whatever way makes you happy. And staying healthy while you are enjoying it, makes it all so much easier.



Jenny Enriques

Nationality: Filipina
Occupation: Receptionist
I am 45 years old and on September 12th, 2014, I was detected with stage 4 Blood Cancer. I worked in Tecom for a computer group company, and still do, and was taken to Dubai Hospital. I have three children aged 10 years, eight years and seven years and I sent them back to the Phillipines. In the initial stages, when I couldn’t resist the pain, I told my husband I wouldn’t survive, but my brother told me not to give up. I slowly realized that the real
enemy is fear and not the disease itself. From that time onwards, I opened the Bible and started praying to God Almighty. I kept praying through my pain, treatment and depression. When I felt at my wit’s end, I prayed more. I started forgiving people who had done harm to me. I let go. In the past, I held resentment, but now I am ready to
forgive and move on. That attitude helped a lot. It was almost like all the negative energy was flushed away from my system. Every time something held me back, I would start forgiving people and praying harder and that helped me move on.

I also realized how much harm we cause ourselves when we are depressed. We over eat, we hurt ourselves by harbouring negative thoughts, we overthink through situations – all of which can manifest in a disease like cancer. I meditated a lot and prayed all the time. Finally, my illness was flushed away, as I would like to say. God helped me cleanse myself out of the disease and expelled it out of my system. I got help through the people God kept sending me – my friends, family, well-wishers and people who gave me hope all the time.

I cannot express how I felt when my reports changed. I am completely cured now and have been good for the last six months. I have realized that being positive can help you deal with everything with great ease and yes, pray a lot!



Salam Swaid

Nationality: Syrian
Occupation: Dentist/ Health Care Administrator
I am 29 years old and I was diagnosed with stage 3 Hodgkin’s Lymphoma a year ago. I didn’t really have any symptoms before being diagnosed but I did suspect something based on a diagnosis from a radiologist that, in all honesty, frustrated me a lot. I had to undergo a regular medical check up before joining a new job and the radiologist suspected something based on the X-Ray taken but wasn’t sure. So I underwent a small biopsy that didn’t reveal anything. Because of which, for a full year, it went ignored. I probably should have paid more attention considering the fact that my mother was first diagnosed with intestinal cancer, she beat it and then found out it had metastasized in her bones, lungs and brain. She passed away in 2006.

By the time I was 28, I decided to follow up only to find out that the mass had increased in size and I had to undergo a full biopsy. Even at this point of time I was praying that it was something else. I was actually hoping it was Tuberculosis or Sarcoidosis. And when the doctor called, I was in such a strange emotional place that he actually asked to speak to my sister to break the news to her. When she finally told me that I had cancer, I was in shock. Tears poured for about five minutes and then they just dried up. Initially, I thought I was in denial. Especially after going through the process with my mother, suffering from cancer was my biggest fear. But when it finally happened, I wasn’t scared. I realised that I felt worse for my father. The poor thing had to go through it with his sister, my mother and now, with me. I felt really bad for him. But him, along with my entire family were my support system. They all realised that the disease and the process that was to follow was merely factual. I didn’t want sympathy, pity or exaggerated emotions. There were even situations where I didn’t like how friends were reacting and I just needed them to calm down!

Over the next six months, I went through 12 chemotherapy sessions and, luckily, my body responded. I would take a day off work after the treatment but I insisted on not shirking my responsibilities. I even appreciated the fact that my boss did not coddle me but instead, she gave me more work and made me feel normal. Three cycles in, the doctor did a PET scan and found that all the cancer was gone. And as of two months ago, I was told that I should forget I ever had cancer!

Every fear I had was met with such a reaction that astounded me. I was scared to suffer from cancer, but when it finally happened, I was fine. I was worried about losing my hair, but when it began falling, I was told I have a nice skull! I even found that I loved the loss of body hair! Don’t get me wrong, I loved my eyebrows, but I just drew them back on and refused to let it depress me.

Hodgkin’s Lymphoma is most common among women who are thin and 28 years old. So, I guess, it was fate that the misdiagnosis happened when I was 27. I guess I just had to wait a year to find out that I am a warrior.



Frida Lobo

Nationality: Indian
Occupation: Area Sales Manager
I was first diagnosed with stage 4 Breast Cancer, with metastasis on the breast bone, several lymph nodes and my spine, in 2011, two years before by 40th birthday. It was sheer coincidence that I located a tiny lump in my breast while taking a shower one day. With no family history of breast cancer, I thought I had nothing to fear but thought I’d get it checked to be on the safe side. The doctors did not like what they saw on the mammogram and requested that I undergo a core biopsy. This confirmed the presence of malignant cells. I still remember the moment my gynecologist broke the news to me. My first words to her were ‘How bad is it?’ to which she said ‘We don’t know yet’ and all I said was ‘We’ll handle it’. I’ve always been a strong woman with a very positive outlook towards life, which is how, I believe, I was able to handle the appalling piece of information with grace.

With the support of my wonderful husband Myron, my two lovely girls Lysandra and Cheyanne, who were 13 and nine years old at the time, an incredible bunch of friends, amazing work colleagues and a positive mind set, we embarked on this journey determined to make it a triumphant one.

There are several factors that contribute towards the success based on which you come through when dealing with this ordeal. For me, the most important one is your positivity. Your body goes through an enormous change with all the drugs and medications and the last thing you want is your mind sending negative vibes to your body. You have to believe in yourself and know for a fact, deep within your core, that you will fight this out, with a strong ttitude and do whatever it takes to empower yourself towards doing just this. You have to be strong. Women are very resilient beings and we somehow find the strength to deal with whatever situation is hurled our way. There is a beautiful saying, which I strongly believe in, ‘You never know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have’.

Today, I live a normal life just like any other woman. I go to work, do my daily chores and spend quality time with my wonderful family and friends. In December 2012, I went on an expedition to Antarctica with 12 other breast cancer survivors. By going on this great mission, I wanted to prove to two girls, my friends, women and myself, that having cancer is not the end of the world. If you have the will and the courage, there is nothing that can stop you. My motto in life is ‘When life gives you a hundred reasons to cry, show life that you have a thousand reasons to smile’.

My message to others, and especially to breast cancer patients and survivors, is believe in the Almighty and know that His plans are far greater than your own. Take one day at a time, one moment at a time, be thankful and live every moment to the fullest. Look at everything as an opportunity. Be aware of the fact that breast cancer strikes one in every eight women. Learn to do self-examinations or go for regular check-ups. The road is not as bumpy if you have an early diagnosis.




Occupation: Administrator
It was just around my 38th birthday when I found out that I had stage 2 Breast Cancer. I had a history of Fibrocystic breast disease, something that effects many women, so I used to go for check ups quite regularly. Usually they were benign cysts. And one year, they were not. And even with my history, the news came as a shock.
It took a while to process the information. And I hate to say it, but my first thought was of death. I was fortunate to have my family, and especially my sister, by my side while I struggled with digesting the news. All I kept thinking was that I was in a foreign country and I had to figure out how to pay for treatment.

But, over time, the thought changed. I realised that I had a warrior in me that could deal with it. More than anything else, I figured that if another could do it, I could too.
Information was another aspect that gave me the power I needed to fight. I realised that the more opinions I got from doctors and the more knowledge I gathered about the disease, the better my understanding was of how I could fight it.

Picking the right doctor, one that I trusted to support me through the fight, was a challenge. The first doctor I met threw facts at me, and while I am the kind of person who usually appreciates this, the way he spoke to me just devastated me. The second doctor had compassion and was humane with his delivery of the news. And this was important to me because I knew that I had to trust him with the decisions when it came to my treatment.

I am a fighter. A determined person. So, even when I was undergoing chemotherapy, I would go to the gym and attend intense exercise classes. It got to a point where people did not know that I was suffering. I refused to let it show. There were moments where I felt hopeless but knowing that there were people out there who had overcome this gave me the drive and focus I needed to fight. I also realised that when you are in that position, nothing really matters. All you want to do is survive.

Through the course of my treatment, the camaraderie I felt with other survivors built friendships that I know will last forever. Family is always going to be there for you, but they don’t truly understand what you are going through. Only a fellow survivor will know what it feels like. And with that, you know that you are not alone.

My advice to those in this battle is to remember that your treatment plan is sometimes a choice. And this is a choice that you have to take carefully because there are repercussions to how you go about it. Listen carefully to the options you have and get as many opinions as possible. Be 100% sure of your treatment plan.

Fighting isn’t a choice. If you have the fighter in you, you may be stronger than others. But even the weak have to fight. That is not a choice.




Vasundhara Raghavan

Nationality: Indian
Occupation: Author -Shades of Life, Sublime Joy in Living, on kidney failure and she manages support groups for kidney patients.
That evening stands out in my memory. Though nearly two decades ago, I can feel the warmth of the strong family association of our time together. It was post dinner. Each of us was comfortably seated as we watched our sons’ favorite TV series X-files, with as much anticipation as we watch Stranger Things today. And my hands chose to move down from my shoulders and rested for a few minutes on my breasts. It suddenly occurred to me that one was a little hard. There was some worry and I could feel that knot in the stomach as I went in to get a mammography test. The test confirmed there was a lump and seeing an oncologist led to several tests.

At the time when cancer came into my life, our family was in midst of a major medical upheaval. My fifteenyear- old son was detected with advanced stage of chronic kidney disease due to a congenital defect. Just two days prior, I had tested myself to be his donor, and this new development was complicating our well laid out action plan. Though no one mentioned, we could sense the big pause in his life. For a teenager dealing with a life-threatening problem was far too complex for finding a solution by himself. All this bothered me all through the period of my illness.

I went through a surgery. On malignancy being confirmed the oncologist made a detailed plan for treatment.

I came out, as promised donated my kidney two years later.

It was not tough to manage the violence of chemotherapy or strains of radiation. All it needed was some effort with proper meal planning. What impacted me more was being in company of so many patients handling their disease! I saw some of them were facing gruesome conditions. Their fight was greater. I couldn’t imagine how one survived the onslaught of such powerful, nerve-wrecking treatment. Then there were the poor, who suffered due to financial hardships. Their cry was not with pain alone, but out of despair of their circumstance that would determine a future. When I saw the detached rich, it left me wondering if they were lonely while battling the disease. Higher dosage of lifesaving and shattering medications was the game changer. Intense physical and emotional pain was evident. Fear of uncertainty of survival loomed large but unspoken words. The whole atmosphere outside a radiation center would be charged with suffering as if world ended there, right then.

I sat back to think. I realized my experience had irrevocably changed my life. It was closing of a chapter in life, letting some part of me lay buried, gone, banished.




Rose Wehbi

Nationality: Lebanese
Occupation: Interior Designer
Two years ago, back in 2014, at the age of 43, I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer. I was the kind of person that would go in for regular check ups every six months. One year, the doctor found a lump. After undergoing a biopsy, they diagnosed it as a benign lump. But something didn’t add up. I just left like something was wrong. So I went in and got a second opinion and that’s when I was diagnosed correctly.

Initially, I was in shock and felt really sad. But I had faith that I would get through it. I believed in my inner strength and my ability to fight the disease. I also believed that everything happens for a reason and that God only gives you as much as you can handle. I also believe that if it weren’t for my family, I would not have been able to get through it. They never let me give up and gave me the strength to fight the disease. They made me realise that I am strong enough to fight it for myself and for them.

Once I was diagnosed, I realised that I had to take better care of myself. I started eating healthier and looking after my health. I did everything I could to make my immune system stronger. I also did a lot of meditation to make my mind strong. This helped me stay positive and not over think the situation.

There were many moments when I lost hope, especially in the beginning. The diagnosis was such a shock and it took time to sink in and adjust to the situation. But I realised that I just had to deal with it. That was my only choice. Also, I had faith that God would pull me through this.

If there is anything I could tell other cancer warriors, it is that it all starts with believing that the word ‘no’ does not exist. It is also about believing that miracles can happen. Cancer is just another hurdle in the journey of life and all you have to do it chase after it and defeat it. Be positive, have a strong frame of mind and have faith in God. He has brought you into the world and he will look after you. We all have many ups and downs in our life but the journey is one we all take. If you put your mind to it, the world can be a very beautiful place. But you also have to take active steps to remove the negativity from your life.

After surgery and chemotherapy, I am now cancer free and look forward to living the rest of my life as actively, positively and beautifully as possible.




Shalini Santhosh Kumar

Nationality: Indian
Occupation: Insurance Officer
I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer in July 2004. At first, when I realized the lump was in my right breast, I consulted a gynecologist at a clinic in Dubai but she didn’t even examine me. She just ignored it saying that, due to fat content, it was a common occurrence for ladies and even small girls to develop small lumps. She suggested that I get it removed when I go to India. So, based on her suggestion, I ignored the lump.

But a week later, I noticed that it had become bigger and harder. So I made an appointment with another gynecologist. She examined me thoroughly and recommended a mammogram. After the report came out, she suggested that I fly to India to get the lump removed and undergo a biopsy. I hoped onto the next flight to carry out her instructions under the guidance of a gynecologist that knew our family well and had been treating us for a while.

As soon as she received the results, she called home to break the news to me, that I had stage 1 Breast Cancer. Initially, my reaction was one of shock and tears. But the one thing that really took me by surprise was that a few months after my diagnosis, my husband left me with my young son. His reason was that he was not interested in living with a woman who was suffering from cancer. He even got married to someone else!

The situation was so dire that, for a while, I considered ending my life by not undergoing any treatment. But it was my son that got me to change my mind and had me moving on to wanting to fight the disease. The day my son turned eight, the 24th of July 2004, I underwent my mastectomy and then went on to undergo chemotherapy.

There have been many ups and downs during the 12 years of my illness, but I will overcome them all. I am still fighting and managing to live while undergoing weekly chemotherapy sessions. The cancer has metastasized to my lungs, bones and has recently affected my left vocal cord. Many have even gone as far as to say they are scared to come near me as they are under the impression that the disease will spread. Some have even gotten in touch with my family back home and told them to be ready to receive a dead body at any moment. And the main challenge I faced was finding out that my husband had left me with six credit cards worth of debt and a loan of AED 60,000. It was a tough time for me and I was heartbroken but I found out who my true friends are with the help and support that came my way. My only message to those battling cancer is not fear the disease, to not surrender, to fight it bravely and know that you will overcome it.




Priyanka Gupta

Nationality: Indian
Occupation: Artist
At the age of 40, back in 2003, I was diagnosed with stage 2 Breast Cancer. It began with a conversation I had with a friend where she suggested I go in for a check up. Her reasoning was that, with having turned 40, I shouldn’t leave things to chance. The next day, while having a bath, I did a bit of a self examination and found a lump. The day after that I made my way to Al Tawam Hospital. Their brief examination led to my having to undergo a CT scan, a mammogram and a biopsy at the American Hospital.

With the test results in hand, I went back to Al Tawam Hospital, because I was comfortable with those doctors and their system, and they took one look at them and told me to get surgery done because I had cancer. In that minute, all I felt was fear. The first thought that crossed my mind was that I was going to die. But then I remembered the young faces of my three children and I knew I had to fight.

Surgery had them removing 11 nymph nodes from under my right arm and almost half my breast. Following this, I had to undergo eight sessions of chemotherapy. I remember the last few ones were particularly hard but I discovered that yoga and mediation helped with keeping me focused and positive. I even remember that the last stages of radiation were so bad that it felt like my skin was burning. But I never gave up hope. The doctors had once told me that I was lucky to get diagnosed as early as I did because the form of cancer that I had usually gets detected only once it’s too late to do anything about it.

Life has thrown a few curve balls my way. In 2001, I had Tuberculosis. In 2003, I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer. And while I went into remission by 2004, the medication I was under had me so weak that I suffered from Osteoporosis, Osteopenia and the three attacks of Spondylitis. But I’m still standing, still fighting and I always will. In 2005, I went skydiving, parasailing and paragliding! And even though my right hand gives me trouble
because of the surgery done under it, I ended up using that hand itself when I took up golf. I find the sport to be a sort of meditation for me as it helps me focus and be positive about life.

Sport, travel and my family keep me busy with a smile on my face. And they show me that nothing is impossible, so long as you keep your mind focused and your spirit strong.

Photograph by Sonal Vaz