Fighting and surviving a fatal disease like cancer is not an easy thing to do. The ailment, no doubt, carries a huge degree of anxiety and fear. Patients have to fight both physically and mentally.
Pink October is observed across the world to raise awareness about breast cancer. One of the most powerful ways to raise awareness is to highlight the stories of breast cancer survivors. Most of the survivors believe that the real struggle needs to focus on the fight and not the fright.
Qatar is one of those countries that offer the best available diagnostic and treatment services for breast cancer patients. This is a fact highlighted time and again by cancer surviving patients. Filipino expatriate Teresita Rivera is a survivor and she is all praise for the treatment and care that she received in Qatar.
In a recent interview with Gulf Times, Rivera spoke about her experience and need for early detection and being mentally strong to overcome cancer. “One thing that helped me in being healthy again was early detection. I have a family history of having breast cancer. There were women in my family who passed away due to the cancer. I have always been fearful. I was lucky that I got it detected very early. It was in 2012 when I felt a small lump in my left breast. At the same time, I saw a TV advertisement highlighting the need for early detection of the cancer. I straight away went to the hospital and underwent mammogram. After they got it confirmed, they also did biopsy because I had the family history and they wanted to determine whether the cancer was malignant or not. The lump was only five centimetre large. As three of my paternal aunts died of breast cancer, I thought I would live only for one or two more years,” said the mother of two.
Rivera, who works as an office secretary in Qatar, believes that she is alive only because she was treated in Qatar. “The first good news for me after the diagnosis was that it can be treated in Qatar and that too for free. I had triple negative breast cancer. My blood samples were sent to Germany to determine the genetic nature of the disease. My full treatment lasted for six months.”
The cancer survivor calls the treatment very hard both physically and mentally. “It was harder for me because I had no family here in Qatar. The disease causes anxiety for the patient. The post-chemotherapy weakness and pain are also difficult to cope. You do not feel like eating and you also lose your hair during the chemo. Nails of your hands and toes turn black. I do not know how other patients may feel but it was very hard for me.”
The experience of going through the painful but successful treatment has made Teresita more positive and gentler towards life in general. “Before I was diagnosed with the breast cancer, I focused more on the materialistic side of my life. I wanted to save money for the future. I used to think of having a house and a business to sustain myself during old age. However, during the time I was undergoing the cancer treatment, I realised that all those things that I wanted to happen in my future became meaningless. I had already accepted that I would not last long in this life. Anytime sooner or later I will be gone. From then on, I see life with a different point of view. I have begun to appreciate each and every day of my life as a blessing from God. It takes away my anxiety for the future. I have learned to live a more peaceful and contented life. Why we should worry about the future when we do not know what the future will bring.”
The Filipino expatriate underlines the need for awareness activities regarding breast cancer. “For women it is very important to know about themselves. In many cases, we have the relevant symptoms but we do not know about them. The awareness campaigns definitely alert us. Thankfully, nowadays, women are more knowledgeable and more curious about their bodies. They can have quick access to the relevant information through Internet. Early detection is the key and I survived because I got it detected very early.”
The survivor has urged women in Qatar to take advantage of the good healthcare system of the country. “Do not hesitate to go to a health centre if you have any disease. If you are diagnosed with the cancer, do not be afraid. The health system will take good care of you. I can say it because I experienced it. The doctors will help you walk through it.”