Come on, let's make breast cancer a disease of the past
Cancer survivor urges women to become 'warriors of hope' at the launch of Pink It Now awareness campaign
Tanya Jepson is a "warrior of hope". After being diagnosed with breast cancer five years ago, she wants her story to inspire, not spread fear.
"It sounds weird but I wouldn't be who I am without it. Breast cancer made my family stronger."
Speaking to Khaleej Times at the launch of Zulekha Hospital's 'Pink It Now' campaign, Jepson said her battle with cancer went from dark to bright thanks to the support of her family.After her husband noticed a lump in her breast in 2010, a visit to the doctor confirmed one thing. It was breast cancer.
Within 10 days of her diagnosis, Jepson was on the operating table undergoing a mastectomy, the surgical removal of one or both breasts. "It all happened very quickly."
After a six-week recovery period, Jepson underwent six months of chemotherapy while juggling both family life and a part-time job. "My son was 16 at the time and my daughter was nine. It was tough but my silver lining during chemotherapy was the fact I didn't lose my hair."
Tanya chose to wear a cold cap during her treatment for one simple reason: her daughter.
"She was only young at the time and I didn't want people asking her questions like 'why doesn't your mummy have hair?" A cold cap is used to cool the scalp. As a result, less of the chemotherapy drug reaches the hair follicles meaning the hair is less likely to fall out.
During her treatment, Jepson's son was diagnosed with clinical depression.
"It was hard for him to see me like that. That brought us all together. That's when we realised how important laughter was," she said. Now five years on from her initial diagnosis, Jepson is in remission and "feels great".
"A year ago my family and I moved to Dubai. I ended up here because of breast cancer."
She said surviving her battle made her realise how important it is to make the most of every opportunity. "I want my story to spread hope. I am a warrior of hope. We need to educate all women about breast cancer. Get checked and don't be scared."
Breast cancer is the top cancer among women worldwide. According to the International Cancer Organisation, more than 1.6million new breast cancer cases were detected worldwide in 2012. In the Middle East, it is the most common cause of death among women aged between 40-50 years. Speaking to Khaleej Times, Dr Ahmad Bin Kalban, CEO of Hospital Services Sector at Dubai Health Authority (DHA) said although awareness has increased here over the past three years, many patients are still presenting with late stage breast cancer. "This is because they are not coming for regular check ups. If they do not see or feel obvious signs of the disease then they simply do not get checked. Early detection and awareness is key." The 'Pink It Now' campaign has been developed with the support of Ford Warriors in Pink, a Ford Motor Company awareness initiative, and Dubai Islamic bank.
The awareness initiative is offering free consultations and mammograms to women to help reduce the incidence of the disease and save lives.
Survivor and pioneer in the field of breast cancer research, Dr Pamela Munster said the UAE now need to focus on breast cancer research.
"We need more studies to detect breast cancer cases in this region. Lets make this disease a disease of the past."
DHA centres offering breast cancer screening: Al Barsha, Nad Al Hamar and Al Mizhar.
40+ recommended age for regular screening
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