Asma, a talented Iraqi doctor was living the best days of her life with her husband, also a doctor, in Iraq until the war started there in 2002. Fearing for their lives, Asma and her husband left their country to come to Jordan and start over. They both found work at a hospital in the south of Jordan and Asma found that she enjoyed working there, helping patients get better with her expertise and passion for medicine. In 2003, her husband returned to Iraq to check up on his parents and family while Asma stayed behind in Jordan. While her husband was gone, the unthinkable happened. Asma received a call at work and was informed that her husband was tragically killed by unknown gunmen in Iraq.
“That day changed my life. I lost my husband, my companion, my best friend. We didn’t even have children, we only had each other.”
Barely three years had passed since her husband’s death when another tragedy occurred. Asma’s sister, a newlywed young woman, was diagnosed with leukemia. She came to Jordan for treatment and Asma devoted herself to being her caretaker. Day by day, as she watched her sister suffer, Asma suffered too. Being a doctor, she knew that with such an advanced case of cancer, her sister didn’t have long. Two years later, her sister lost her battle with cancer and passed away.
In 2008, Asma planned to take a routine early detection test for breast cancer. Her sister’s death had been a huge wake-up call and she knew that early detection of cancer could save her life. She was determined to look after her health and be vigilant; she didn’t want to take any chances. By sheer coincidence, the hospital Asma worked at had recently received a new mammography machine so Asma jokingly told her colleagues that if they wanted to try it out, they should try it out on her. Asma took the mammogram and went back to work only to receive a call from the radiologist who asked her to come back to his clinic.
Arriving to the clinic, Asma did not know that she was about to witness another major turning point in her life. The radiologist told her that her mammogram showed a malignant tumor in her breast and that she had to begin treatment right away. Asma was completely shocked at the news, for she had no outward signs or symptoms of breast cancer. She didn’t even feel a lump in her breast. Asma did a biopsy, which only confirmed what the mammogram revealed: she had to remove the tumor as fast as possible.
Asma chose to undergo treatment at the King Hussein Cancer Center (KHCC). “During that time, I kept getting flashbacks to when my sister had cancer, “Asma recalls. “But only I was alone, with no family to take care of me. . I even had to inject myself with medicine. It was an extremely difficult time for me; I suffered from a lot of side effects from the chemotherapy. I had constant nausea and dizziness, and I didn’t feel myself at all. It was as if I had no concept of time, the days just passed by in a haze.”
Asma finally ended her treatment, but instead of feeling better, she fell into a deep depression. She lost interest in living, and even wished for death.
One day, Asma was referred to the psychosocial services department at KHCC, whose mental health specialists treated Asma for her depression.The impact this had on Asma was profound. “The day my husband was killed, and the day I first went to the psychosocial department at KHCC were the two days that changed my life forever.”
“My life eventually began again. I once again became the well-liked Dr. Asma who loved to help people and loved life. I went to individual counseling sessions as well as group therapy sessions for breast cancer survivors at KHCC.”
“Today, whenever I meet women who suffer from violence, terrorism, or illness, I tell them my story, for I have been through all of these. Regardless of how difficult my life was in the past, I stand strong now to help other people and motivate women to never give up. Volunteering had a huge impact on my life, as it made me a better person. Nowadays I am happy to say I have many friends, who I spend wonderful times with helping to improve the lives of other people.”
This story was last updated in 2012