UAE: Cancer warriors and expert panellists gathered to shed light on breast cancer

Dubai - The fourth edition of the monthly interactive platform, wknd. conversations, took place on October 27


Somya Mehta

Published: Thu 4 Nov 2021, 7:16 PM

There’s something very special and empowering about listening to other people’s experiences battling out tough challenges and emerging victorious on the other side. While it may strike a chord or two, either drawing from the familiarity of situations or the emotions buried underneath, a survivor’s tale leaves us with an invaluable feeling of hope, that there will always be light at the end of a gloomy tunnel.

And such was the energy that lightened up the entire room for the latest edition of wknd. conversations. In the fourth edition of the series that took place on October 27, at Ila Cafe & Restaurant, in association with Zulekha Hospitals, breast cancer warriors and expert panelists came together to foster a conversation around breast cancer awareness, over two engaging panel discussions.

The panel discussions, moderated by radio presenter Karishma, kickstarted with a rejuvenating session of sound healing conducted by wellbeing coach Delna Mistry Anand. The coach enabled the guests of the afternoon to embark on an inner journey, to gear up for the conversations ahead, through a guided meditation commentary and live sound bath.

Survivor’s tales

The first session of the afternoon, brought together two breast cancer warriors that shared their battle with cancer, revisiting the moments when they were diagnosed with it and eventually going on to share this news with their friends and family members, to finally embarking on their journey to beat the illness.

The first speaker of the afternoon, Umaima Tinwala, was a cancer warrior and media professional with over 21 years of experience. Losing her mother to cancer in 2011, Umaima got diagnosed with stage one breast cancer in 2014, after finding a lump in her left breast. Undergoing lumpectomy, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy, Umaima is now cancer-free.

Sharing her biggest learning from the fight against the Big C, Umaima said, “I’ve learnt not to put unnecessary pressure on myself. The world doesn’t come to an end if you don’t excel at everything,” she added. “Letting go of that pressure has been my biggest lesson, even post-cancer. If we’re able to just change this one thing about ourselves, it will make us happier and we won’t hold ourselves to unrealistic standards,” said Umaima.

The second cancer warrior to share her story was Stacey Fernandes Mathulla, who was diagnosed with stage two breast cancer in January, earlier this year and broke this news to her family through an article published in Khaleej Times. Currently cancer free, undergoing final stages of her treatment, Stacey acknowledged how mindfulness played a key role in shifting her perspective, aiding her to deal with the tough circumstances. “I decided early on that I will not let this cancer define me. I will continue to live my life normally. If I feel like napping, I’ll take a nap, if I feel like dancing, I’ll dance! And that’s exactly what I’ve done,” said Stacey, adding that telling her friends and family she was diagnosed with cancer initially made her very nervous.

“The reason why I didn’t tell a lot of people at the start was because I felt I had to manage their expectations and their emotions. Obviously, they’d be coming from a place of worry and concern but I also needed my space and wanted to deal with it in my own way,” added Stacey.

But does the fight ever end? While the physical dangers may subside and you may be “free” from the cancer physiologically, there are several emotional and psychological factors that can also impact one’s road to recovery.

Spotlighting prevention

The second session of the afternoon focused on drawing from expert perspectives, spotlighting preventative measures and the psychological toll the Big C takes. The panel discussion comprised Arathy Vijayan, clinical psychologist, Zulekha Hospitals and Dr Soha Mohammed Ahmed Abdelbaky, Professor of Medical Oncology, MD, PhD (Medical Oncology), Zulekha Hospitals.

“Sometimes, when people find out they have cancer, everything happens so quickly that they’re unable to take a moment and gather courage or identify where to get the right support,” said Arathy. “Often, they get bogged down with the anticipation of how their cancer will impact those around them, or how they’ll take the news.” And as the women on the previous panel also pointed out, she added, “You do you. Deal with it how you think is best way for you,” she added.

Concluding the session, Dr Soha essayed the importance of screening for all women, to get an early grip on the deadly disease. “By early screening we can detect cancer when it’s too small to feel or see and we can treat it through minimal surgery, with a cure rate of almost 100 percent,” said the Professor of Medical Oncology. “My advice to everyone would be to go for screening regularly after age 25 and if you have a family history of cancer, then from age 20,” she mentioned.

The afternoon ended with a round of questions from the audience members, followed by a sumptuous spread for lunch, giving the guests an opportunity to chat with the panelists and learn more about their journey with breast cancer.

wknd. conversations is a monthly interactive platform where influential leaders from different industries come together for an interactive session on a variety of subjects.

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