Fatima Jomha – Breast cancer survivor :You would survive and tell your storyQCS Team
The ultrasound is not enough to rule out malignancy and a biopsy is needed”. This is how the story of Fatima Jomha, a 33-year-old breast cancer survivor, started. In April 2017, the biopsy revealed cancerous cells.
“I was lost. I was told that I have cancer, but I didn’t know what that means. You know the meaning of cancer, you know it because you have heard about it before, but when it happens to you it is different. I was surprised and shocked to hear the surgeon’s words. He said it straight away in a tone that lacked compassion: ‘you have cancer.’ I didn’t have a family history of cancer and when you don’t have it you tend to not think about it. You think it can happen to other people but not you, but it happens, and this is where the initial shock comes from. It was emotionally hard to accept the diagnosis. I started crying. I was crying without thinking because of all the things that you hear about cancer. I was in denial. I went from one doctor to another to another hoping for something different. But this is how you come to accept. Then you just have to rely on God and what he has planned for you and be the strongest you can for your family and your kids.
Going through this journey, you start asking, who else is going through this? You start asking in your community and they answer you. They tell you the success stories of women who went through the same circumstances as you and they survived and you also survive and tell your story to others, You find strength in other people’s stories. This is what I’m trying to do now for the newly diagnosed patients because I know it is hard, but just know that there is hope and there is always a light at the end of the tunnel. I know that you don’t think this all will pass right away. This is because when you are going through it and you are feeling that tiredness and the transition from being a person who is not going through these procedures to a person who is going every single day to the hospital – that’s a big thing. I used to never go to the hospital and then I had to go; for example, during radiation, every single day and then chemo, and through chemo you have to be very careful and so initially going through this process you don’t have the strength.
My message to everyone going through this is to find a person who you can confide in and hopefully they will give you the strength to go on. This is one of the reasons why I’m happy with the Qatar Cancer Society because they have an advocacy program that provides support to patients dealing with breast cancer.
For me, my family were the source of my strength. Without my family’s support I don’t think I could have gone through it. My husband was very supportive, and my family came all the way from Canada to support me – my mom, dad, all my sisters and brothers were with me if I needed anything. They would prepare my food and take care of my nutritious diet because you will need somebody to help you be the strongest and actually fight any side effect and anything that would happen along the way through chemo and radiation because your body is weaker and you need help in every way: psychologically and physically and everything, including your diet. They were there for me when I went to procedures and I needed people to take care of my kids who were too young to know the meaning of what was happening. They would see the things around them. For example, if they saw my hair falling out, they would be scared and say, ‘please mom don’t show us that you don’t have hair, just cover it’. But you just have to teach them that there is something happening, and you have to deal with it and move on because life is full of ups and downs and this is one of the downs. You have to learn how to teach them that your mom is sick right now just for that period of time and that she will be better. During the treatment, I felt like I can’t be there for my children because I was weak and not feeling well, but in my mind it was only for a period of time and I’m going to move on from this – it’s just going to be in the past. You cannot keep thinking about it and asking why this happened to me, because when this happens, you have to go through the procedure and hopefully through prayers, diet and everything else you go through it and it becomes something in the past. I know that when someone tells you that you have cancer you think that you don’t have much time to live, but right now how they treat cancer is different than how they used to treat it a long time ago and they are managing all the side effects well.
Don’t think that cancer is a death warning; just do what your doctor is telling you to do as it all backed up by research, so try to find a doctor that you feel comfortable with and one who gives you the confidence that this treatment is the right one for you and always try to be strong for yourself, for your children and for your family.
When my doctor first proposed the treatment plan to me, I refused the chemotherapy, but they said you have to do it because you’re young and the cancer is aggressive, and you have to do surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. I agreed to everything, but not to the chemo therapy and the doctor started to laugh and said if I was his child, he would definitely persuade me to do chemo because it gives you a high rate of survival and it gives you the chance to live longer and he presented to me the statistics related to the type and stage of my cancer and after that I agreed and I did everything. It was not easy and every time that the nurse came to give me the chemo I would start to cry because I felt hopeless at that time, but she gave me hope. She would say that she sees cancer patients all the time and that I would get through this. When you’re in the treatment room, you are fighting all these feelings. As a patient, I started asking myself what is happening to me, am I going to live, is this really going to work? I had too many feelings. But I came to realize that if you’re happier and more relaxed while taking your treatment, it will work better for you. Something that somebody told me is that God chooses the people that he knows can withstand this problem and not just anybody, and that this is a test for that person and so if they pass the test, they get closer to God and gain more deeds. This thought kept me going. I tried to think of it as a gift from God and not a curse.
In the first year after finishing the surgery, chemo and radiation – with all of this being new to your body, your body is trying to get used to it. What I learned is that when you’re in the moment you feel like you’re going to feel like this for the rest of your life – going to feel awful and with all the medications and the chemicals that they put in you, but then there is a transition phase that happened to me and it happens to all cancer patients and it is when you’re done with all the treatments and you’re trying to find yourself and going back to your normal self this is really hard – because your body is fighting all the new things that happened to it and you’re trying to find yourself and you are thinking I have to get back to how I used to be before – you just have to find a place where you’re comfortable and it is not easy and it can last for 1 or 2 years, but when you get there that is it, that is the beginning of your life again. There is a light at the end of the tunnel. You will feel better. And every time you think that things will not get better, just remember that it will – but your body needs time to get used to all the things that happened to you and when you’re past that stage, just work on yourself to become the person that you want to be and have a plan for yourself and work on your goals – because when you reach those goals you’ll feel even better and you’ll feel like a normal person again. This is what happened to me. I went through this transition stage and now I am back to normal. At this point I am a public speaker and raising awareness. In the past I wouldn’t think that I would be doing that, but now after the transition period and the fighting I am here, and I am spreading hope to people.
The thing that I’m most proud of is that I emerged from being a cancer patient to breast cancer advocate and this is my biggest achievement in my whole life. I’m a pharmacist, but this is my biggest achievement. I am now doing research in the field of breast cancer.”