Nabeel IbrahimBreast Cancer
I was diagnosed with breast cancer twice in my life. Once at age 50 and then at age 57. My dad was the only one known in our family to have had a cancer. He was diagnosed in the initial stages of colon cancer and recovered quite fast. I feel another factor which may have led to my cancer was being exposed to secondary smoke when I was young. My dad smoked a lot and we were always in that environment.
I am by nature a very positive person. I don’t let things get me down. I am also a very active person and used to be an aerobics instructor and love to have fun. For me, cancer is like any other disease. Take it as it comes and cope with it. No point worrying about it.
My positivity helped me deal with cancer. Laughter is important and you must be able to have fun with people. Anything could happen to anyone. There are those in worse shape than I am. So, I feel lucky that I’m still okay. I can’t compare with others who are suffering. Hence, I am grateful.
I also made sure that my sickness did not affect my family or anybody else. I don’t believe just because I’m sick, those around me should also suffer. Everybody has their own life and should enjoy themselves. Luckily, my positivity and happiness helped those around me forget that I was sick.
I was 50 years old when I got a lump in my breast. I didn’t go to the doctor immediately. I waited for months and then it started hurting. At that time in Male’ there wasn’t a cancer clinic. Hence, I had to go to Sri Lanka. I did a biopsy and it turned out to be positive.
Inside the hospital, my mother-in-law, husband and son were there. I came out and said “I got cancer, guys. Nothing to worry about. We can fight through it. Let us go eat somewhere”. I didn’t let them worry.
I read everything about breast cancer. Some were positive while others were negative. Once I knew what was going to happen and the treatments to come, I was not scared. I felt motivated to beat cancer, and I was fully prepared.
The doctor told me that they would need to remove the whole breast. But we wanted a second opinion, so we went to Bangalore, India, where the Oncology Institute is located. The doctor their told me that instead of removing the whole breast, they would just remove the tumor, since it was small.
I did the surgery there and removed the tumor. Chemotherapy was next. I had to do 6 doses, followed by 28 days of radiotherapy. “This was the normal protocol that needed to be followed” advised the doctor.
It took a total of 7-8 months. Every 21 days I had a dose of chemo, and afterwards was the radiotherapy. I had to go to Sri Lanka every 21 days for my chemo since there were no facilities in the Maldives at the time.
I’m a positive person. Yet, when I lost all my hair and my skin darkened, my self-confidence and self-esteem reduced during the process of chemotherapy. I felt I looked strange as I did not have any eye brows, eye lashes. More than the cancer, it’s the side effects of the treatment that really affects me and whether I like it or not I have to cope with it.
If someone gets a heart-attack or a kidney failure, your physical appearance does not change much. This is not the case for cancer, you look sick and lose your natural beauty.
I was cancer free for 7 years, before it came back. It was on the same side and a similar lump. Maybe this time it was due to stress and a not very healthy lifestyle.
Fortunately, we now have a good cancer clinic at IGMH. Dr Shifan and his team are really great. The tests were again positive, and Dr Shifan suggested that we remove the whole breast. I got the mastectomy done in IGMH. The surgery was a success and I spent 3 days in the hospital. There was no pain and I felt fine.
However, after final testing my cancer was at the same stage as the first time; stage 2. There was nothing else to do but return to chemotherapy and radiotherapy. I didn’t want to go through it again. I was hesitant. I had gone through with the whole protocol before, was cancer free and it came back again.
My family and friends didn’t want me to wait. They told me that I would still get more time and reduced risk of the cancer coming back if I did chemotherapy.
In the end, I started the treatment and this time the drugs were different. The side effects were worse. I get gas, feel bloated and I feel more fatigued. I can’t eat since I have a metallic taste in my mouth. It could be that my body is weaker with age and hence harder to cope with the drugs or maybe I wasn’t as positive as before.
I’m not worried though. It’s just that I don’t have the want to do something nor the effort to do something. I have 3 more doses of chemotherapy to go.
Here in Male’ the chemotherapy doctor is a visiting doctor. He comes once or twice a month and is available online. But, if I have an adverse reaction to chemotherapy, I would need someone that I can call immediately. I wish there are solutions available for side effects of chemotherapy. For example, since my veins are so thin and dried out after my first course of chemotherapy, the drugs leak out, causing my skin to burn and its very painful.
For anyone suffering from cancer.
If you have to do a surgery, do it immediately. And if you have the financial capability, go abroad and check on the newer treatments available and which is the best one for your cancer. Reduce your sugar intake, go for food that contain more protein and less carbs, and of course, do some exercise. Be healthy and less stressed.
For me, I had my family and friends for support and of course my positive attitude. If you don’t have someone or if you need more support, or someone to just chat with, seek out the Cancer Society of Maldives. They have amazing people there.
Take it as it comes and stay positive. Why worry of what’s going to happen? Keep smiling.
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