Hana Abu Lughod
Originally, from Palestine, thinks like a Jordanian, and my soul is Emarati.
proudly fighting breast cancer
Pre cancer phase
Stage 0: understand what do you have
There is 4 stages of breast.....
stage 0: where there is no evidence of cancer cells breaking out of the part of the breast in which they started.
Stage 1: where cancer cells are breaking through to or invading normal surrounding breast tissue.
Stage 2: where cancer is still in the earlier stages, but there is evidence that the cancer has begun to grow or spread.
Stage 3: which is considered advanced cancer with evidence of cancer invading surrounding tissues near the breast.
Stage 4: which indicates that cancer has spread beyond the breast to other areas of the body.
After stage 4 your soul will stop fighting and the cancer will win and be the boss of your body , and your soul will leave happily to a new life else where.
There is also a theory that I came up with which is stages of making your cancer a blessing from God.... And it is four stages....
Stage 0: understand what do you have.
After I know I had cancer I didn't cry, I decided to understand what do I have exactly then I will react, by then I didn't tell my family because I was not sure what to say... I told one of my friends who I thought she will manage to direct me the right way, and thank god she did.
She took me to another hospital who are specialized in breast cancer and they decided to re do all the tests again from mammogram, biopsy, ultrasound, nuclear scan, CT scan, and Mir scan.
This stage is ugly and dark, you will feel lost and you will not know what to feel... Am I dying? Will I manage to tell my family? Can I handle the wait for the results of the tests.
In this stage you need someone who somehow been thru this journey, to support you and tell you what you will go thru.
Thank God I found the right person who faced cancer and beat it when he was young and now he is in his 60 alive and kicking,
I went to see him and I directly said to him in a shaky voice: "I am not afraid of dying!", he said to me : "we will all die...and of course you are afraid honey! Cancer is a mind sickness either you win the battle and fight it in a positive way or it will kill you by surrendering to the dark ugly thoughts... What you should say now to yourself .... I will win this battle", and he continued:" this is your battle, face it alone no one will help you, you are the only one who can help yourself, you will see people crying in your face as if you are died, it is ok when you see them laugh.... chemotherapy is hard but you will manage"
And he kept taking about how to deal with chemo, who shall I tell and how i can improve my mental health to beat it. It was the right support because I don't want a friend who will cry when I tell him/her. What I needed at that time was someone to tell me "this is what you will face and this is reality".
On the way home I remembered a personal couch who once asked me:" Hana do you know who is your master" I said" I think they are a bunch of writers, philosopher, and media personalities", he laughed and said" they are not my dear, your master is the person who is making your life miserable... Do you know why". I said: " no please tell me!", he continued" because this person will teach you how to manage your anger, improve yourself, fight his/her bad and negative fibs, and change and grow your personality! So you should thank this person and call him your master!"
So on the way back home that night I knew who is my new master... It is a 2 cm cancer lump in my right breast...
Stage 01: do you have the balls to tell your family that you have cancer?! Hmmm I didn’t!
If you know me personally then you will know that I can face anything with my poker face… nothing is impossible for me, and every bad situation is a new exciting challenge for me.
However, telling my family that I have cancer after losing my father for cancer in September 2015 was not a challenge I was willing to face.
After I was diagnosed with cancer and knew my stage, I called my brother in law and said in a sarcastic way: “hey, listen I have cancer! Tell the family I am not inserted in telling them!”
Of course, he was in shock! I really do not know how he managed to tell my sisters! All I know that after telling my brother in law I found my brother in Dubai coming to explain to my mom my case.
I thought they will not manage to face my sickness or manage to support me, which I understand, they are still recovering from my dad cancer which was not easy! End stage lung cancer! In addition, I am stubborn and I thought I could deal with my sickness alone! Of course, I was wrong!
My family… let us say acted strong in front of me and managed to help me.
Well, I did not have the balls to tell them i have cancer, but now I have bigger balls because of them to face cancer.
stage 0.2: Friends with benefits
stage 0.2: Friends with benefits
My dad used to tell me: “you love your friends more than you love yourself…. and this is wrong; because one day when you are in need, trust me you will not find the support you are expecting from them! That doesn't mean your friends will not support you... They will, but they will not do the impossible for you like what you are doing for them.”
I used to fight with my dad about that but somehow he was right, I was the friend of benefits to all of my friends even not the close ones, I have always been there, made sure they are doing fine, and did the impossible for them.
However, when I needed the benefits from my friends I did not find it...
I decided to tell my close friends only about my cancer because I was not comfortable at first to tell everyone.I found out that I was the one who is helping them to deal with their emotions and how they feel about my sickness! Trust me I was not looking for that! But since they knew I am stronger than them they were throwing all the negative energy on me without noticing.
During this period, I found out that there are types of reaction a person will face from his friends if he has cancer:
1-“Drama queen” friend:
They will cry when they see you, and make you feel you are already dead... Try to be nice to them and hug them.
2-“The no comment” friend:
They are overwhelmed and don't know what to say to you ... Try to open the subject and give them full details about your case so they will be more comfortable about it to discuss it.
3-“The you are strong" friend:
They believe in you very much and think cancer is not effecting you... Try to explain you are not always fine or strong and you need their support.
4- “The hurricane” friend:
Their emotion is out of control and they will lose it... Try to transfer their energy to help you.
5- “The right” friend:
This friend will deal with you as a normal person facing a hug challenge... Keep this friend close!
At first, I was angry with my friends because I expected more, but then I knew they are doing their best so I have to appreciate it.
When I met my surgical doctor "Dr Annet"first time she said: " Hana you are a lucky person because you have 90% survival rate, just keep in mind some close people to you will bring you down, push them away nicely during the treatment period because you need to keep your positivity high all the time."
PS: I love my friends and they are doing their best to manage my stubborn attitude, but we need to understand no one is ready or know how to react with a cancer patient in the right way.
Stage 03: who gave you the right to take my chance of having a baby ?!
Stage 1.0: chemotherapy is a mind game!
My sister dream was to study medicine, but eventually she studied engineering, although till now in our family we still consider her our family doctor because she still has a passion for medicine and reads a lot about it.
I took my sister and my mom to see my oncologist Dr.shaheenah to discuss the treatment protocol, and what to expect from the chemotherapy. I decided not to listen because I believed at that time that chemotherapy side effects are horrible, and you may die from it! Hmmm it does not…. do not believe everything you read or see on media.
My sister was listening and discussing with Dr.shaeenah the treatment protocol and Dr.shaheenah laughed and said to my sister: seems you know a lot about chemotherapy!"
My sister smiled and said:" well I wanted to study medicine but I did not... Although I still have the passion to read about it!"
Dr shaheenah looked at me and said:" Hana maybe you should listen to know what you will face ... You look like you don't care!"
I replied with my usual sarcastic voice: “well I do not care! I do not have cancer! my sister does!”
Dr shaheenah smiled and said:" remember you should watch out for your immunity because it will drop the next week of every chemotherapy cycle.”
Somehow, my mind freaked out when my Dr talked about the immunity drop and how I should check my temperature frequently, she even advised me to go to the hospital if it reaches 37, 8!
If you do not know, there is many side effects of chemotherapy like:
•a drop in the number of blood cells.
•nausea and vomiting.
•sore eyes and runny nose.
From my experience I learned that If you believed you will have the side effects, then you will get them, but if you believed you will not have them then trust me you will be fine during the chemotherapy period.
For example most of the patients who take chemotherapy will lose weight, have nausea and vomiting, but for me during the whole period of chemotherapy I didn’t vomit because I decided before I started chemotherapy that I will not vomit and I will fight it… trust me it works!
Whatever fear you have in your head it will come and hunt you in life, kill the demons and fears in your head and stop putting negative thoughts in your life.
Believe and see positive good thoughts and you will see that life is giving you what you are thinking about.
From the day I knew I had cancer I decided to say to myself and everyone around me that we are facing cancer but it is not in my body, it is in my family and friends body, and we will kill it!
Stage 1.1: new hairstyle!
Stage 1.1: new hairstyle!
It is been a while since I wrote anything… but it was a challenging time where I didn't have the energy to write, but since today is the same day I lost my father last year I decided to make it inspiring day and make it as positive as possible.
So let us talk about stage 1.1 “the new hairstyle!
Do you know that your body is very smart! and usually will give you clear indications if there is something wrong happening? Usually the indications will be like a high fever, pain, loss of appetite etc..
My body gave me a clear indication in 2015 when I felt a weird pain and found the lump, those indications were very clear to make me go directly to the hospital, but as you remember, I was misdiagnosed.
However, my body did not give up and refused to settle, actually my body came up with unconventional indication to push me to go and re do my test.
The indication was a very weird feeling I used to have when I comb my hair; where I used to get lost with my thoughts and enter another dimension seeing my soul in the mirror talking to me and repeating the same words:” Hana it is time to shave your hair, don’t worry it is ok, it will not hurt you just get the shaver… look it is in shower box just grab it and shave your hair”.
I used to grab the shaver, and after a few minutes, I used to feel a slap on my face and my mind will get out from this weird dimension.
I kept on having this unconventional indication until I went again to the hospital 2016 to re do my test and knew I have cancer.
When I was young I used to watch a French show that interviews young girls and boys where they sing and show their talents, I used to love the show and watch it with my family, my father used to say every time we watched it: “those kids are beautiful but Hana you are better looking than them because I love you.” What he said is very true because when you love someone you will see him/her beautiful no matter what he looks like, so I remembered his words when I started combing my hair and it was falling down after my second chemotherapy, I smiled and did not feel sorry for losing my hair.
I called the hair saloon and book appointment to cut my hair short directly after it started falling.
I went home and rest on my bed for a while And when I wake up I found that the hair is falling very fast, so I decided to man up and shave my hair, I thought I will cry I thought I will collapse but I didn’t I smiled and felt beautiful because I love myself and believe hair is not what makes me beautiful.
Before I had my cancer I used to think I am not that good looking, but when I lost my hair I started seeing how beautiful I am without makeup, hair and anything fake I used to put on my face.
From my cancer, I know that beauty is not by putting makeup or dying my hair, it is feeling and acting beautiful! So act and feel beautiful
Stage 1.2: with wig or without wig? That is the question!
When Dr Annett Al Hamadi in Mediclinic-city hospital informed me that I have cancer, she gave me a voucher to buy a wig, and since I am not that girly girl I did not know there is a full natural hair wigs! It is somehow expensive but it looks better than my natural hair!
Therefore, I was so excited to wear it! I even started wearing it before I lost my hair! my oncologist Dr Shaheenah Dawood in Mediclinic-city hospital told me that I am the first cancer patient who used the wing before losing my hair! Well it was so beautiful! In addition, I was not in the mood to blow dry my hair since I was overwhelmed with the cancer news.
However, after I shaved my hair and was using the wig all the time, I was getting sick and tired from it; well do not blame me the temperature in Dubai was reaching 50 degrees and using the wig in this weather was not the best option!
Therefore, I decided to use scarfs and do it in a funky stylish way!
Again, I was having headache from the scarf! Since I was using it 24 hours! Even in front of my family! Because I thought, they are facing cancer with me and this is enough drama for them, and making them see me without hair will crash them.
However, I guess I was the one who is not ready to go out without covering my head, it was a challenge for me, remember, I see myself beautiful but I know people are judgmental.
I decided to make it systematically, so I decided to go to the gym without the scarf, it was the best decision I made! I got different reaction from people in the gym who saw me some are positive and some are negative.
After I was comfortable, going to the gym without the scarf, I posted my photo on my Instagram and ofcourse all my friends, followers were supportive, and this pushed me to start going out without the scarf.
I felt great to face the demon inside me “people reaction”, and I learned I was helping people around me when I went out without covering my head…
So what kinds of reactions I was getting from people? Moreover, how I was helping them?
The one who will open his/her eyes wide when he sees you bald. This kind will feel bad for his reaction and will try to act nice afterwards. You will remind him to be more open and go out of the box of problems and matristic world.
The one who will smile to you. Either he/she was having a bad day or you reminded him/her that feeling down is not worth it and life is full of happiness, or he was having a good day and he/she is a spiritual person and you made his day by seeing you bald.
The one who will ignore you. He/she is so afraid to look at you but he/she will be thinking of you for a long time and be amused of your courage.
The one who wish to talk to you. He/she is inspired by you and knows how strong you are.
It takes a lot of courage to go out bald as women but when you do it, you will feel so strong and powerful in a way no one can imagine.
I believe that I was totally comfortable going out bald when I was chilling with my sisters on the beach, and I removed my scarf for the first time in front of them and I saw a smile on their face that gave me a push to keep fighting and smiling and showing my beauty without a wig or scarf just bald and beautiful!
Stage 1.3: no one is disabled in life, it is only our judgmental mind
When I knew I had cancer, I was thinking of taking some time off from work, I thought I need to focus on my sickness, and I will not manage to do my job properly while I am talking chemotherapy....of course this is bullshit!
My head was still in the judgmental phase before i started my chemotherapy, which means " cancer patient = useless person”! and of course this is not right; cancer patients are normal powerful people who can do more than any normal person can do!
when i went to see Doctor Annet Al Hamadi in Mediclinic-City Hospital, to get the news about cancer, i asked her to give me one month sick leave, she said to me:”Hana you are not sick! why do you need it? if you got sick from the chemotherapy then i will give a sick leave for one day.”
I was in shock when she told me that! one day! really! i know i used to go to work with a 40 degrees since i am workaholic, but this is cancer! “again with my judgmental mind”.
Of course i had to inform my work i had cancer and they informed me I only have 15 days sick leave, and i thought to myself:”15 days! it is not enough! i wish i was allowed to save all the sick leaves i didn’t talk from the years before!.”
Anyway, the day came and i took my first chemotherapy, my oncologist Dr Sahhenah Dawoud gave me 5 days sick leave, and told me to test my body and go to work when i feel comfortable because the first chemotherapy is a shock for the body and it is not easy… she was right it was not easy.
but as you know i am not easy also, and i decided to fight my chemotherapy side effects, and go back after 2 days to work.
My mother thought going back to work after 2 days is a stupid idea, and told me :”Hana you look tired please stay home! this is stupid!”
i replied with my usual phrase: ”mom i don’t have cancer, you have! and i am going to work!"
I drove to work, thank God i managed to do the 25 minutes drive to work.
I started my radio show, and then i knew it was the biggest mistake i made to go to work this day.
I finished the first hour of the show, and it was 5 hours radio show, i knew by the end of the first hour that i can’t continue the 4 hours left, i called my friend Dani Mansour and told him to come and drive me home, because i knew i was really tired i can’t even drive back home.
Dani came directly, and picked me up, he noticed how miserable i felt because i couldn’t finish my radio show. he looked at me and told me” tomorrow you will feel better and you will do your show, you body will get used to the chemo and next chemo you will not feel a thing.” he was right…
The day after i was feeling much better and went to work and did my show perfectly! i knew then that i needed to go to work because home will make me feel sick and useless, and i knew then that my mind was judgmental.
WE ARE NOT USELESS! And there is no one disabled, but unique people.
If you have something different in your body, and it is not working the normal way or the traditional way... try to understand it, find the best way to deal with it, and find a creative way to use it to improve your work.
And don’t forget, if you got sick don’t act sick because your body will believe it, act and feel normal and you body will start healing, take baby steps and everything will be ok :)
Stage 2.0: I am the man!
It is been a while since I wrote, but what I can say I was in a new overwhelming phase, although I am still facing big challenges in my journey, but I decided to start writing again.
So let us talk about the day I knew I am the man in my life…
My father used to tell me that I should consider getting married, even if I am not a fan of getting married.
He told me one day you will need the support and push from your partner when you get old or when you face a big challenge, I told him with my stubborn attitude: "I don't need a man in my life! I can manage everything in my life alone; I am an independent woman who can handle her own drama alone." My father was right, and I was somehow wrong.
When you see breast cancer campaigns you will notice that they always focus that it is affecting women between the age of 40 and above. But they always ignore that breast cancer is now affecting young ladies! Yes young ladies above 25! Some of them are not even married yet, like me.
Facing a disease that will affect your looks when you are single is really challenging. If you don't know after beating breast cancer either you will end up with un match size breast, without nipples, fake nipples, fake boobs, and no feeling in the whole area.
Although when it comes to men they will not be fully supportive to their wives when they face the diseases like breast cancer, as I heard from many breast cancer fighters, and I think it is normal since is affecting them also like it is affecting their wives. Some ladies told me you are lucky you are facing it alone because the relationship between you and your hubby will not be the same.
Maybe true, but since I didn't have any male figure in my life; father, husband, or boyfriend I found out in my journey I have to take very tough decisions that I never imagined in my life I would take without the support of my father or partner.
I learned how to be the support for myself, to say to myself I am beautiful when I looked measurable, to wipe my tears when I cried, to say to myself I am with you and it will be ok, and to be the man who is supporting me during the tough times.
I remember before my two surgeries I wished I had a partner to hold my hand, kiss me, smile, and tell me I am here and see you after your surgery.
After this journey I become my father, husband, and boyfriend to myself, and I know it will take me years to accept any man to enter my life.
It is good to be strong and independent, but don't forget to find your soul mate to be with you in the good and bad times.
Life is beautiful together, appreciate your partner.
Stage 3.1: drama queen!
My treatment plan according to my cancer type began with four cycles of AC chemo, 12 cycles of taxol chemo , double mastectomy with reconstruction and 18 herceptin injections for one year.
Stage 3.2 Money is the cancer
Some people will say I'm crazy, but I believe facing cancer was one of the best exciting challenges I've ever faced. I was enjoying it and decided to embrace the experience.
For me, my biggest challenge and problem that I felt I will not be able to solve is not finding enough money to finish my treatment, and I believed and still believe that money was my cancer. I still remember those days, and how I thought that maybe I would die because I don't have money to finish my treatment. It was an ugly phase and experience which killed many emotions in me and made me hard as a rock.
I even stopped writing because thinking and remembering this phase still breaks me. But what the hell let's do it! The story must continue.
Before writing the story I would like to thank every single person I know, and I don't know, remember and don't remember that donated and helped me finish my treatment. Those are few of the names I remember:
Misan Abu Rmaileh
Diana Haddad Tanas
Jordanian Mamas in UAE
Friends of Cancer Patients
Al Jalila Foundation
king Hussein cancer center
Dr. Shahenah Dawod
Hiba abu Shamat
Nora Al Farekh
Abeer Joudeh Al Hussaini
Sally Mohd Al Said
So here we go, My Amazing Doctor Shahenah Dawod informed me that my insurance limit would not be enough to cover my treatment plan and the surgery, she suggested that I should apply for an upgrade from the insurance company, and apply for charity organizations in case I didn't get the upgrade from my insurance. I was positive I will get the insurance upgrade since it is common and done before, but again lucky me… It didn't work out, and the insurance upgrade didn't happen….
While waiting and waiting for the insurance to accept the upgrade, I applied for the charity organizations, hoping that I will get the support needed
I was doing my chemo and checking my insurance every day where I saw the money fading away without finding any solution to the money issue. The amount needed 250 K AED! I started believing I will die because I don't have money to finish my treatment, and believed that the monster in my life was the money, not cancer!
My family and friends started suggesting that is it better to go back to Jordan to finish my treatment there. It was a big NO NO for me because I didn't want to lose my job. It wasn't acceptable for me because I never stopped working since I finished university. Also, I didn't want to face the sympathy from my friends and family in Jordan. And the most important thing is that I was comfortable with Dr. Annet al Hamadi to do my surgery and thought it would be a big mistake if I changed her.
So whenever someone opens this topic with me, I was going mad like a monster. I was not going to stop my life because I'm sick. And let us not forget I don't know what the meaning of being jobless and taking money from family is.
I decided I need to find a solution and get the money, so an article was written about me to ask for help and donations on the newspaper.
After one hour of posting the article on my profile, my phone didn't stop ringing from people I know and don't know asking me how they can help.
A beautiful angel called Missan Abu Rmaileh, the founder of Jordan Mamas in UAE called me. When she called, I felt that I'm talking to a sister, and someone I know from a long time ago. She took the initiative and responsibility for collecting the donations for me with the collaboration of Friends of cancer patient Foundation.
Friends of cancer patient foundation donated some of the treatment and money for me, and the CEO of City Hospital accepted the donation with an open heart, and he sent me a very encouraging email wishing me a good health and a confirmation that the hospital will keep supporting me till the end of my journey.
Many people came on the way to help me, but of course, we couldn't reach the target, but gladly I was covered until the end of the year for my treatment, but not for the surgery or next year treatment. But I started feeling positive and stopped thinking that I will die because I don't have money to get my treatment.
And since I was trying to be positive I decided to start considering plan B, which looked more reasonable for me.
I decided it is time to make some compromises and use my leaves from work to go for one month to Jordan and do my surgery.
Luckily King Hussain Cancer Center welcomed me with lots of care and love and approved my case directly.
I still remember the day DR Mohamad Basem Hamadan called me and discussed my case, he took one hour from his busy schedule just to explain the surgery and pushing me to come, and confirming that it will be a piece of cake and I will be back to work in no time. He was another angel that supported me on my journey.
After booking my leave to go and my surgery In November, a call from heaven came, a beautiful lady called "Ayshah" from Al Jalilah Foundation informed me that Al Jalelah Foundation would cover the rest of my treatment in Dubai Hospital.
I felt and knew by then I'm the luckiest person on earth because I found heaven on earth again. And my Dream came true; which was doing my treatment and work at the same time.
There was tremendous support from the beautiful fighter "Lina Al- Sharif," but I'm sure if I talked about it, she would kill me :D, but I have to mention you and thank you, my guardian angel... GOD bless you.
Yesterday, I went to cut my hair for the first time after one year and a half, and the beautiful lady who did my hair told me that her sister has cancer in Africa and she is not getting treated because they don't have the money for the treatment… Many people like her need help, so remember to keep helping people around you as much as you can and save a life and kill cancer which is money.