Saudi Arabia: A Think Piece on Cancer

No matter how much I try not to think about it cancer does remain high on my mind.  I also have unanswered questions related to cancer which may never get answered.  For what it is worth, I’ve decided to share some of my experiences and resulting questions with American Bedu readers.  Perhaps putting more minds together some of the questions may get answers or at least make more sense.


Do you believe in coincidences?  I’m a caustic individual by nature and if a coincidence happens in spite of time and  distance, then perhaps it is not a coincidence at all.  What do I mean?  In February 2008 my cat, Max (Max a’Million) passed away at our home in Riyadh.  Although he had been a housecat his entire life and never went outdoors, he passed from feline leukemia – in spite of having been vaccinated for the disease. 


June 2008 I was initially diagnosed with breast cancer. I was treated and (thought) I put the cancer behind.  Life returned back to normal until October 2008 when my (late) husband was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of acute leukemia.


If my cat is included in to the equation, doesn’t it seem odd that 3 members of the same household were diagnosed with cancer within a 9 month period?  Was there some element in our house or its location which made us at higher risk for cancer?


  We lived in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs housing compound which is a private Saudi compound for Foreign Affairs employees.  We had a lovely home which was built by a Korean construction company which incorporated American features while maintaining Saudi traditions. We were mere minutes away from Riyadh’s city centre.  When my husband and I moved into our villa we learned that it had been empty for almost a year; it had been held for a VIP who was abroad but eventually it was determined that individual would not be back soon. His extended absence was our gain. We moved in and made our villa home.  Abdullah and I did as we had in Washington and combined our decorating tastes making our home a mix of culture and love.

Shortly after we moved in we had some problems with the water and sewage system. The maintenance crew fixed the problem right away.  However we came to realize this became a regular occurrence and about every 3 months the same problem would recur…and get fixed again….  The last time a maintenance technician was working at our villa, prior to our departure, he told my husband that our villa had a history of water and sewage system problems! Could this have been a clue that something wasn’t quite right?


I may never have my answers to these questions.  What I do know is that my husband and I enjoyed our villa from Spring 2007 until our departure from Riyadh in March 2009.  We left Riyadh so my husband could receive a stem cell transplant at MD Anderson Medical Center in Houston, Texas.  Little did either of us know back then that we would not return to Riyadh together.


I do know that 12.5 percent of Saudi’s diagnosed with cancer have breast cancer and that these women are usually diagnosed at a Stage 3 or Stage IV by the time they are first seen by a medical practitioner. 

Saudi men are more likely to be diagnosed with an acute leukemia than Saudi women.  Saudi is ranked 15th in the world for death due to leukemia.

I have a strong faith in God so I’ve never challenged why Abdullah was taken back home to Him in February 2010 or asked why my own cancer keeps progressing. Yet my own analytic nature does have me looking back at events and wishing for some answers to my questions.


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