Why me?

On July 25, I got that dreaded phone call confirming my fears after having felt that lump on my right breast back in Feb. The nurse nervously asked me to come into the office as my biopsy results were ready. She refused to give me any information over the phone, “please come see the doctor,” she insisted. I was standing on the aisle of Pan Emirates when I received the phone call. I was trying to choose lamps and stools for the cinema with our interior designer. I tried holding back the tears because I was dreading going back to that hospital again. As I made my way home I tried to shut my mind off by listening to some music, I did not want to think. As I got to the doctor’s office, they called me in immediately and he sat me down and said “unfortunately you have breast cancer” immediately followed by “don’t worry it’s still very early stage but we need to begin addressing this immediately.” I broke down in tears. How could this have happened? All I could think about was: “I’m 31. How can I have breast cancer at 31?” I felt guilty as if having cancer was my fault. I tried to find something to blame it on, was it the smoking? Was it my own vanity? Was it because I did not eat well enough? Was this some kind of punishment?

Last shoot I did in honor of my natural breasts. Photo by Angelika Bakou.

I did not understand why or how this could have happened to me. I became obsessed with finding the why. I went to 7 doctors in 6 different hospitals in hopes someone would give me something to blame it on. But no, I was told I had a “spontaneous” form of cancer. This was proven later by my negative genetic BRCA test. No one in my family had had breast or ovarian cancer. How can cancer be spontaneous? Also what a ridiculous choice of word. Spontaneity, to me, is something positive and beautiful, cancer is everything but. It turns out 80% of breast cancers show up randomly in your body without warning. It also turns out we, young women under 35, are only 4-5% of the total of diagnosed breast cancer patients. The number is unfortunately rising, and there is not enough awareness about the risk of breast cancer in young women, and there is also less research dedicated to understanding the causes of breast cancer in young women.

A unilateral mastectomy and 8 chemotherapy sessions later (halfway through my treatment), this is exactly why I decided to do this. It took me a long time and a lot of thinking to start this blog and share my story. When I was diagnosed and when I started chemo, it was very important to me to maintain the highest level of normalcy. I continued doing my job, having my social life, I still go to the gym when I have the energy. I got myself a ridiculously amazing wig and I styled it several times until I could just make sure no one can tell there is a smooth, shiny, bald head underneath it. I did not want to get the head tilts of pity from strangers and I just did not want to be associated with cancer. It is not all I am and it is not all I want to talk about. Except that, when I started the journey I realized how much misinformation there is among young women when it comes to breast cancer. I also realized that I did not have a lot of information to relate to out there as a single – recently divorced – 31 year old with no kids, facing issues of self-confidence, dating, sex, career while undergoing cancer treatment.

Cancer has made me question my ideals of beauty, of femininity, it has challenged my dating life to a whole new level, it has made me understand my body in ways I did not think possible. Cancer has made me realize that there is no better time to do anything than right now. There should not have to be any “special occasions” to wear the sequin skirt I love so much or the fancy heels I spent so much money on, or to tell my friends I adore them with all my heart, or to eat that Mirzam brownie I crave. Cancer has given me a different perspective of time, that everything we are is in the now and that everything is temporary and we have to make the most of out of it. Cancer has taught me to be patient and that not everything is under my control and sometimes I just have to wait and hold on to my strength, and to my friends and family and hope for the best. Cancer also taught me to share my feelings and accept my vulnerability as a gift, and this is why I started this blog.

To my friends who pushed me to do this, thank you, I love you all so much!