With Breast Cancer Awareness month just around the corner, HEALTH meets two breast cancer survivors who narrate their journeys of survival and courage.
Maya Karmani is a stage 2 breast cancer survivor who says she is thankful of the fact that there is great awareness of breast cancer in the UAE.
“I was diagnosed in June, 2008, underwent surgery followed by chemotherapy and radiotherapy. During my diagnosis and treatment, I consider myself blessed to have received unconditional love and immense support from my family and neighbors. This helped me overcome the toils of my surgery and chemotherapy sessions.”
“In March, 2009, I heard about Brest Friends, the support group for breast cancer survivors and patients With Breast Cancer Awareness month just around the corner, HEALTH meets two breast cancer survivors who narrate their journeys of survival and courage. in the UAE. During the first few meetings I had attended, I made new friendships that are established until the present day. As I went for more meetings, everyone including me, was encouraged to share their story, I met many good women and began to understand their thought process. This strengthened my drive to move forward in life.”
“In terms of priorities, I have become more health-conscious with my family. Besides paying attention to what we eat and maximizing the nutritional value in our meals, I also decided to lose weight and I continue to practice yoga five times a week. This move of mine has motivated my family to make their own individual decisions to improve their health. So as a family, health comes first.”
“As a result of my experience, I have learned to rationalize my fears and be more calm and positive. My spiritual faith has fortified and thanks to the positive outlook of my friends at Brest Friends, if there’s anything you may want to take from my story, it’s this: Keep moving forward.”
The Expert’s Angle
Dr. Melanie Schlatter, Health Psychologist in Dubai, discusses how life changes for so many women after being diagnosed and treated with breast cancer.
“Women are impacted across a number of dimensions from the very time of diagnosis – especially emotionally, physically, socially, and spiritually. Thus, often by default, they choose to look closer into particular areas that were lacking previously, and instigate change in that / those parts of life. A simple example is a woman who focused primarily on her career prior to cancer, realizes that she would prefer to spend meaningful time with her family or perhaps focus on her health, post-cancer.”
For the Better
“Cancer has the ability to hasten existential life questions that we typically tune out when we are on the ‘rat wheel’. Women often know what they really want, but they don’t have the means
or courage to carry it forward. The threat of being very sick and having less control, as well as potentially losing one’s life often helps to make one’s situation more transparent and it
becomes more of a ‘must’ change in some way, shape or form.”
Raquel Soeiro is a 35-year-old Portuguese makeup artist whose motto is: “You never know how strong you are, until being strong is the only option you have!”
“I was diagnosed in September, 2014 and was 12 weeks pregnant. In October, 2014, I underwent surgery and subsequently, began chemotherapy in November. My daughter Isabel was born in March, 2015 and two weeks later I was back in chemo to finish 12 treatments, and in June I got 15 sessions of radiotherapy.” Raquel Soeiro is a 35-year-old Portuguese makeup artist whose
motto is: “You never know how strong you are, until being strong is the only option you have!”
“At the time of my surgery and chemotherapy, I was pregnant nearly 80 percent of the time. That was my biggest strength-my daughter was a huge rock inside me, and, along the way, I found that I could reach any impossible tasks. My family and my husband, especially, was the most amazing person and he’s been supportive since the very first minute we discovered I had cancer. Also, my friends here in Dubai had a major part in all of it.”
“I’m not cancer free yet, as I have to do 10 years of Tamoxifen. But I’ll get there. All of this process has being amazing and I often say that this was the most beautiful and amazing time of my life. I had the chance to meet wonderful people and doctors, here in Dubai and in Portugal. Family got closer; all those small things became secondary. We became alive, more alive than we ever were. I am grateful to have a chance to tell my story; the chance of be the voice of others; the chance to change their lives.”
Steps to Staying Positive During Breast Cancer
- The evidence for the benefits of social support, as well as religious or spiritual beliefs is high. Benefits can often lead to a decrease in depression, faster physical recovery, and improved quality of life.
- Learn how to relax, breathe, and take a step back-focus on what is truly important.
- Don’t be afraid to delegate. Learn how to say no.
- It is important for women to feel a sense of control. Yes, you are allowed to crash periodically (don’t be afraid of this), but it’s equally important that you decide to get up and back on your bike again. That way, you will be more prepared for any other trials and tribulations along the way.
- Know that you don’t always have to put on a brave face-especially if you are in pain, nauseous, or having difficulty with changes in body image.
- Regularly write down about your thoughts and feelings associated with the process. Emotional expression, and even benefit finding, are vital for positively affecting your psychological state and immune system.
- Don’t immediately stop all the positive things that you were doing. Some people instantaneously give up their lives, which is a tremendous adjustment-keep on with things that you enjoy where possible.
- Keep up the basics-getting up each day, showering, and having breakfast can be monumental for some. But plod on-make that commitment to yourself.
- Learn to laugh, or seek out laughter in any way, shape, or form. Don’t let yourself forget how to have fun.
Al Jalila Foundation Champions Breast Cancer Research
- Al Jalila Foundation is a global philanthropic organization founded by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, in November, 2012 to position the UAE at the forefront of medical innovation. Al Jalila Foundation is fully funded by the generosity of donors and one hundred percent of funds donated are invested into medical research, education, and treatment to transform lives.
- According to the World Health Organisation, 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime with approximately 1.4 million women worldwide diagnosed each year. In the UAE, breast cancer is the most common cancer among women and studies show the average age of diagnosis is 10 years younger than elsewhere in the world. These statistics reaffirm the critical need to continuously support breast cancer research to keep up with the latest advances in treatment to save patients’ lives.
- Al Jalila Foundation partnered with Brest Friends in 2015 to reinforce its goal to promote early detection of breast cancer, expedite support with medical treatment and invest in local breast cancer research.
- Early detection goes a long way toward successfully treating breast cancer and Brest Friends was established in 2005 by Dr. Houriya Kazim, the UAE’s first female surgeon, with the mission to save lives by increasing awareness of breast cancer in the UAE. Brest Friends is an active breast cancer support group made-up of approximately 500 members where patients and survivors gather once a month in Dubai to share experiences and offer support to each other.
- To date, Al Jalila Foundation has invested up to Dhs 5 million into breast cancer research studies and supported more than 24 patients in need of quality care.