Dubai, UAE: Every 68 seconds, a woman somewhere in the world loses her life to breast cancer.
However, Dubai resident Ghadeer Kunna, 45, is a woman who beat the odds after a long battle with breast cancer and an experience she describes as a milestone that changed her life.
“There is always one mark, one experience in your life that changes you. This was the experience that changed me — into a better person.”
Ghadeer who is Sudanese-American, first discovered a lump in her breast while she was living in California at the age of 29.
“I was physically active, ate organic food, didn’t smoke or drink, and had a healthy life; and then I discovered a small lump in my breast after a jog one day,” she recalls.
After a visit to the clinic and after undergoing a mammogram test, Ghadeer found she had a total of six lumps in her breasts and under her arms. Monitoring the lumps over several years, her life took a staggering turn almost a decade later. She was diagnosed with stage three of breast cancer in 2013 after moving to Dubai. Anticipating the possibility that the disease could have set in years earlier, Ghadeer said she was faced with her worst fear at last.
“After I was diagnosed, I thought: If I live, then I would love to know why; if I don’t, then it simply means my time is up, but I will do my best to fight without looking at the end result — and at least will know I did my part,” she said.
Having undergone chemotherapy treatment, and too many surgeries to keep count, Ghadeer said she often tried to stay busy and “let time pass” through her treatment sessions. “I was told my cancer was very aggressive and my cell growth was triple the rate of normal cell growth. Little did I know that was to my advantage,” she said.
The aggressiveness of the cancer was the reason Ghadeer responded well to the chemotherapy treatment.
Experiencing everything from low energy levels, pain and what she described as “a boiling sensation,” Ghadeer said she tried to keep herself distracted and continued to work whenever possible.
With her mum by her side, and friends around her, she stayed positive and left no room for people’s pity. “I took the time to recalibrate and reevaluate my life, who I am, and what I want to do with the rest of my time. If someone was going to cry around me, they were told not to be in touch with me, because I didn’t have the energy to deal with that and fight the cancer,” she said.
However, just when her treatment was working, Ghadeer received more bad news.
“I didn’t cry when I found out about the cancer, but I cried a lot when I found out I was not going to be able to have children. But this was God’s wish for me, and I accepted it,” she said.
In 2014, Ghadeer underwent a double mastectomy and was told soon after that she was cancer-free.
“I am not a normal person, I have to get a certificate that says I am okay every three months — but then again a normal person can die any minute, too,” she said.
Currently, Ghadeer lives in Dubai, works at the Department of Transport (DoT) as a strategy specialist, while also acting as an ambassador for the Burjuman Safe and Sound breast cancer awareness programme.
Ghadeer said the experience has not only made her more resilient and forgiving, but has given her opportunity to think about the legacy she wants to leave behind. “The pain will go, the hair will grow back, but you can’t go back in time to the person you were before the cancer — and that’s okay because you come out from it as a better person.”
© Gulf NewsMar 2015