The will to survive; ‘Let our stories become your strength’

Women come together to discuss taboos and myths behind breast cancer

SHEHARYAR ALI October 27, 2016
Seminar on ‘chronic’ disease organised at Bahawalpur varsity. PHOTO: FILE

KARACHI: I fought, I survived and I never asked God ‘why me?’ and that became my power, said Asma Nabeel, a cancer survivor and head of films at Crew Motion Pictures.

She was speaking at the Pink Party, an event organised by WomenX Pakistan and N’eco’s Café on Thursday to raise awareness about breast cancer in honour of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. WomenX Pakistan is a pilot for a global World Bank programme to support high-growth potential women entrepreneurs.

Nabeel, who was diagnosed with stage three breast cancer, emphasised that instead of getting depressed and stressed about your illness, people should think about the way out. “Keep your faith strong and fight it out; that is the key to success and survival,” she told participants.

Nabeel said the most important aspect of breast cancer, which is the word ‘breast’ itself, is considered taboo in our society. “Why must we feel ashamed of our body part, why can we not just talk about it normally?” she asked. Nabeel related her experiences during her visit to universities where she spoke about breasts and caused girls to laugh and boys to smirk. I told them that there is nothing funny about breast cancer and one must not feel shame about his or her body parts, she said.

There is still a lot to do in terms of creating awareness among society about breast cancer, she said. “When people are shy of talking about it, the risk of cancer increases,” she warned.

Speaking about how patients themselves find the topic to be a taboo, she related an incident in which a patient suffering from stage four breast cancer told her doctors that she required her husband’s permission for her mastectomy, as he might not allow it out of ‘shame’.

Gesturing towards the audience, Nabeel said that even mothers and daughters feel hesitant about talking with each other about such things and asked them to reduce the gap between themselves and start sharing their concerns about their bodies. She mentioned that her husband was a great support throughout her battle with cancer and that is the reason she successfully beat it. Husbands should pay attention towards the health of their wives and talk about it without any hesitancy, she urged.

Cancer patients often lack motivation and when I meet a cancer survivor they lean towards optimism, my success story becomes their strength, she said.

She told particpants that they must never ignore any illness just because they are busy with their work or things at home. Once a year, pay a visit to the doctor and go for a mammogram, she urged. “Spread awareness among your social circle and ask them to spread it to others so that the message goes out to everyone,” she said.

A nutrition coach associated with N’eco’s Cafe, Nazish Chagla, debunked a few myths and misconceptions about breast cancer. She said that the first misconception is that people think that breast cancer is hereditary or that wearing tight or black or underwired bras causes breast cancer. They also believe most breast lumps are cancerous, exposing a tumor to air causes it to spread, small breasted women have a lower risk of breast cancer and caffeine causes breast cancer, she said.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 28th, 2016.


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