When asked how losing her hair made her feel as a woman, Rasha responded enthusiastically “I wasn’t upset at all. It actually made me feel stronger, like Demi Moore in the movie G.I Jane. I was a soldier preparing for battle, and my battle was with breast cancer. Thankfully, I won.”
Getting dressed up in her favorite outfits and carefully putting on her make-up was an important ritual for Rasha. She was getting ready to go to her chemotherapy sessions at the King Hussein Cancer Center and she wanted to look and feel her absolute best. Rather than feel depressed because she had cancer, Rasha saw it as an opportunity to celebrate being alive.
As a fitness instructor specialized in sport rehabilitation, Rasha had worked with breast cancer survivors before and as a result was very aware of the disease. However, she never imagined that one day she would be facing cancer herself. A wife and mother of three young children, Rasha lived an active, healthy lifestyle. There was no history of cancer in her family and she had none of the risk factors typically associated with breast cancer. But she still got it.
As she was breastfeeding her youngest son one day, Rasha felt a small lump in her breast. “Since I was used to performing self-breast examinations, I immediately felt that something was not quite right.” Not satisfied with other people’s assertions that it was probably just an inflamed milk gland that would go away eventually, Rasha decided to have it professionally checked immediately.
This was when it was discovered that the lump was indeed a small tumor and Rasha was diagnosed with breast cancer. She immediately thought of the King Hussein Cancer Center (KHCC). “I was already familiar with the Center because of my research about breast cancer survivors. When I got breast cancer myself, I knew there was nowhere else I would rather go for treatment.”
After having the lump removed, Rasha underwent extensive examinations at KHCC to determine the stage of her cancer and how far it had spread. She had surgery to remove cancerous lymph nodes and then had to undergo two rounds of chemotherapy for six months, followed by radiation therapy on a daily basis for one month.
During this time, Rasha did not tell anyone outside of her immediate family about her illness. She was determined not to let the cancer affect her. “I didn’t want anyone to treat me like I was sick.”
As a result, no one noticed. While Rasha stopped working during her treatment due to the demanding physical nature of her job, she did not treat any other aspect of her life differently. Her husband and children were initially very worried about her but they were reassured by Rasha’s positive attitude. “I would take my kids with me to my chemotherapy sessions like it was any other regular appointment, and when my hair fell out from chemotherapy, I would walk around the house completely bald. My cancer became just a normal part of life.” By treating her cancer like it was no big deal, it somehow didn’t become one.
“There were definitely times I felt the side-effects from my treatment, but I was lucky because they weren’t severe. I didn’t allow myself to dwell on my illness; I just wanted to live my life to the fullest.”
Rasha’s unshakeable faith and positive approach to life are no less than inspirational. What’s her secret? “There is no secret. I accepted my cancer because of my belief that everything truly happens for a reason. While others are dying from war and starvation, I instead had access to good medical treatment right here in Jordan. With such an excellent opportunity to fight my disease, how can I feel anything other than extremely blessed and grateful?”
By detecting her cancer at an early stage, Rasha was thankfully able to get the right treatment and her cancer was cured before it had a chance to spread. “I cannot emphasize how important it is for women to self-check and undergo breast exams and mammograms, regardless of their age. I was diagnosed with breast cancer at just 35 years old. Early detection saved my life.”
This story was last updated in 2012