As a very thin teenager, 14 year-old Ibtisam was initially happy when she suddenly started to gain weight. Her family thought it was just part of her growing process and didn’t think anything of it, until they realized that it was only her stomach that seemed to be getting bigger. The rapid weight gain began to become very visible, and combined with Ibtisam’s loss of appetite; her family decided it was time to visit a doctor to find out what was happening.
Ibtisam was referred to a local hospital where she took some tests, and it was discovered that the growth was actually a tumor originating from her ovary that was growing uncontrollably. In fact, the tumor became so large at one point that it weighed seven kilograms. At first, Ibtisam’s family wasn’t sure how to tell her. They were afraid the news would be too upsetting. Frustrated that her family seemed to be concealing something from her, Ibtisam would pretend to be asleep so that she could overhear their conversations.
Eventually, Ibtisam found out that she had ovarian cancer, but her reaction was not as expected. Instead, she raised her head high and vowed to beat the disease. Ibtisam was referred to the King Hussein Cancer Center (KHCC) and immediately underwent surgery to remove the tumor. The tumor was successfully removed, along with one of her ovaries.
Ovarian cancer is very rare among younger women, especially women who are as young as Ibtisam was at the time she was diagnosed. “Getting treatment at KHCC made all the difference. The doctors and nurses were very friendly and approachable and that put me at ease and kept me optimistic. One of the nurses became a great support system to me. She gave me a lot of inspiring advice. Even the other patients I talked to told me how coming to KHCC actually gave them peace of mind and a chance to get away from their chaotic lives.”
Over the next few years, Ibtisam was put under careful observation and had to undergo many rigorous follow-ups, plus three more surgeries to remove growths on her ovaries. This caused her to miss a lot time from school. Unfortunately, her absences created a lot of judgment among her teachers and peers, who did not fully understand her illness and all the difficult adjustments that come with it. One of the teachers even told her “If I were you, I would have probably killed myself.” Ibtisam refused to be affected by this. “It just goes to show that our society needs a better support system for cancer patients.”
Despite spending almost six years in and out of hospital, Ibtisam graduated from high school and is now a university student majoring in Business Administration. In addition, she is a poet who is very gifted with words. “When I was a patient, KHCC ran a short story and poetry competition among the patients. I submitted my work and won in both categories.”
Ibtisam is now a strong, talented young woman in her early twenties. She enjoys spending time at KHCC and stays active in the community by volunteering to play with and support pediatric patients. “I’ve met so many wonderful people at KHCC. One of the volunteers is a musician, and even offered to help turn my poems into songs.”
“My mother is also active in the KHCC community. She is part of a group called Amal, which is a support group for parents whose children have cancer. My mother spends her time talking to and sharing her experience with other parents at KHCC, so that they don’t feel alone.”
Even though Ibtisam was diagnosed with cancer at a very vulnerable age, she never let herself feel defeated by her circumstances. Instead, she pulled through and used her experience to nurture her talents and become the bright star she is today.
This story was last updated in 2012