“Cancer”, a word many people dread and hate hearing. Our culture has systemized us to view cancer as the equivalent of death, however many strong cancer fighters and survivors are constantly proving otherwise. With modern technology and all kinds of medical and natural treatments, cancer can be dealt with like any other disease. In hopes of shedding light on the acceptance of cancer as a disease like any other, we spoke to 29 year-old Yasmine Gheith, a cancer survivor and fighter whose story is bound to inspire others.
Yasmine – a mother of a four year-old child – discovered her cancer last month. “It was on a Thursday,” she says recalling the day it all began. She discovered a lump on her right breast by coincidence as she was bathing, and decided to get it checked up. After a consultation with her doctor, she went in for a mammogram. “I had some doubts deep down that it could be cancer, but for the most part I never expected that it would be,” she says.
“Our culture makes it seem like Cancer equals death…” – Yasmine
The mammogram results indicated that most probably what she had was cancer. However to confirm it once and for all, she was asked to see a surgeon. After seeing the surgeon, the presence of a cancerous tumor was confirmed. The surgeon then advised her to go in for a surgery to remove the tumor right away, and so she did – that very same day. The time span between the moment she found out till the moment the tumor got removed in surgery lasted 3 days.
“It was shocking,” Yasmine tells us about her initial response to the news, adding that she was with her son during the mammogram, not expecting that she would be informed of such bad news. “I cried and I started questioning whether the way I’m living is right or wrong, and I automatically thought of my son,” she says. For her, the surrounding culture had gotten her to believe that Cancer equals death, and accordingly she feared having to leave her son behind and feared dying early. However, after the surgery, she began seeing and hearing the stories of cancer survivors who lived long lives and who’ve fought the disease. “Even when I did the surgery, I still didn’t believe that the cancer was gone. In our culture people believe that cancer cannot just go away that easily. That all changed though when I started hearing the stories of others,” she says.
From her oncologist, to her psychologist, to her husband, her family and even her 4 year-old son, the support she had from those surrounding her was tremendous. Her son was with her when she first discovered the cancer and saw her crying. He began acting out with frustration, and crying at home over his mother’s sadness. Eventually, Yasmine calmed him down by letting him know that “the medicine” for her sickness “is his hugs and kisses”. Ever since, he would constantly hug her and kiss her to make her feel better.
Her husband gave her strength by letting her know just how much he valued her and by showing her the strength he felt she constantly gave him. Her brother, mother and father were also there, letting her know that it will all be ok. “People usually find that a sister is more supportive and helpful, but if I had a sister, she wouldn’t have been as supportive and as helpful as my brother was,” Yasmine says.
Due to her emotional distress in response to coping with the cancer and accepting it as a normal disease, she began seeing a psychologist. He helped her begin viewing matters in a more positive light, and helped her accept the disease more easily.
“I love to write poems. Now, every time I feel a certain way I write about it in a journal that I’ve named ‘My Cancer Diaries’.” – Yasmine
Given Yasmine’s young age and given that her cancer was hormonal, she will be taking chemo and medications for the coming years to ensure that the cancer does not surface again. In the meantime, she realized that she was not taking care of her body and thus started eating healthier and cut down on red meat and white sugar as an alternative treatment alongside the medical treatments.
From getting her to take care of her body, to showing her how blessed she is, to getting her to view cancer more lightly against common false portrayals, to bringing her closer to her family, having Cancer brought all kinds of positive effects on Yasmine’s life. “I love to write poems. Now, every time I feel a certain way I write about it in a journal that I’ve named ‘My Cancer Diaries’. Maybe one day these diaries can help other people out there and show them that it is ok to have cancer.”