October is global breast cancer awareness months. American Bedu readers who have followed my blog over the years know this is a very personal topic for me. For those who are newer to the blog I will recap my journey.
I have Stage IV metastatic breast cancer which means my cancer is not curable but treatable to maintain and/or slow down its growth. My initial journey with breast cancer started in June 2008 while living in Riyadh. I had always been diligent about doing monthly self breast exams and never forgot the day that I felt something that did not belong. A follow-up mammogram started me on a journey that began in Riyadh and ultimately brought me back to the United States. I continue my battle and am optimistic that I will begin a new clinical trial within two weeks.
Breast cancer is the most common cancer to affect women in Saudi Arabia and accounts for 22 per cent of all new cancers in women. Over 8,000 Saudi Arabian women are diagnosed with breast cancer each year and around 50 to 60 percent of cases are detected at an advanced stage. If it is detected early enough there is a very good outlook for a cure. However, in the Kingdom many Saudi women are reticent to come forward for an exam when they discover a lump on a breast. A woman may feel scared to speak up or ashamed believing that she and her body are now “damaged.”
Towards removing fear and stigmas, the Ministry of Health has established the National Campaign for Breast Cancer Awareness which provides guidance and encouragement to Saudi women and their families. Another proactive organization offering support, advice and services to women is the Zahra Breast Cancer Association.
Towards raising global awareness and education about breast cancer, the Zahra Breast Cancer Association, under the leadership of HRH Princess Reema bint Bandar bin Sultan al Saud led a group of Saudi women to the Mt. Everest Base camp in May 2012. Each of the Saudi women participating in the climb had either been touched personally by breast cancer or had a loved one with a diagnosis of breast cancer.
Previously, in 2010, Zahra Breast Cancer Association made it into the Guinness book of world records for forming the worlds largest ‘pink ribbon’ human chain.
My personal message to any woman battling against breast cancer is to remain strong, positive and faith focused. Do not keep your fears bottled inside. Do not be shy or afraid to reach out for support and share your fears. Live each day to the fullest. If in Saudi Arabia, contact Zahra Breast Cancer Association where you can be put in touch with an understanding and caring support group.
With the exception of Cancer Help the above cited organizations are based in the United States. However online forums, resources and assistance are available to all. Cancer Help is based in the UK and provides additional links for online cancer support in other countries around the world.
Last but not least I am personally available for any woman battling breast cancer and wants to chat with someone who has already “walked the walk” and can assuage fears and provide encouragement. I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org