Dubai, UAE: Dareen Barbar was 15 when an aggressive form of bone cancer was diagnosed, leading to her left leg being amputated above the knee.
The Lebanese expatriate, now 38, said the loss of a limb led to depression and triggered an identity crisis.
“Can you imagine yourself at 15?” Ms Barbar asked. “You are talking to your girlfriends about parties and boys and going out and clothes.
“It was a time when I was obsessed about basketball. Then, suddenly, you find yourself in hospital, surrounded with IVs and doctors.”
Ms Barbar, who had osteogenic sarcoma – which often strikes in the teenage years – said she was not sure who she was after the operation.
“It was a bit of a crisis for me,” she said. “But at some point you have to let it go.”
Ms Barbar said that with the support of her family and friends she managed to pick herself up. “It was hard to face a perfection-driven society. People looked at you, pitied you.
“They had sympathy but they think to be attractive is to be perfect and have certain looks. It was tough life and to adjust to the prosthesis. But eventually it got better.”
Ms Barbar returned to school, completed her education and began a career as an insurance clerk.
After marrying Ramzi Gholmieh, she relocated to Dubai in 2006 and became the mother of two children.
But in 2013, she had an accident and broke her hip.
The challenge of her recovery inspired her to begin training as an athlete. Today, she is a qualified gym instructor and has competed in charity events.
She wanted to tell others who have had cancer diagnosed not to give up.
“It is painful and it is tough but keep a positive spirit,” Ms Barbar said. “Just be happy and keep a smile on your face and miracles can happen.”
In demand as a motivational speaker, she will share her story at the Celebrate Cancer Awareness Day event being staged by Pure Hearts 4 Cancer on Friday at Dubai Investments Park.
The group helps cancer patients to get back to their normal lives by re-entering the workforce.
© The NationalFeb 2016