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The lump was still there in October, and while on a quick trip home to the UK for the half term holidays, one of my oldest friends gave me a massive lecture about not having had it properly investigated, having been through her own breast cancer scare earlier in the year, which turned out to be benign. 

So I reluctantly made an appointment to see the OB-GYN when I returned home to Dubai, and she booked me in for my first ever mammogram about 3 weeks later. 

How an intelligent woman in her early 40’s had never had a mammogram before could be a real sign of the times and the very real fear that the Big C instils in most people.  It’s a death sentence isn’t it?  So let’s not allow ourselves to go there.  

Now I have come to appreciate the intensive campaigns every October about the importance of self-awareness and getting yourself checked regularly. 

Don’t even wait until you’re in your 40’s as the instances of breast cancer are happening to women much younger nowadays, especially in this region, the reasons for which are being researched by charities like Brest Friends.”

November 22, 2015 was the day that my bubble burst; when life as I knew it would change forever. 

After the rather painful mammogram (I mean, if the machine squeezed any harder I thought my breast would actually burst open) I was quickly sent in for an ultrasound to further investigate the (by then multiple) lumps found, and the total silence and grim faces of the specialist made me quickly realise that all was not well. 

It was the longest 40 minutes of my life, with not a single word or look exchanged.  When she was done, “the enemy” – who I would later discover to be a very kindly and sympathetic radiographer – gently patted me on the arm, and told me that I would need an urgent appointment with the general surgeon who, despite being booked up for weeks, could see me 3 days later. 

I got dressed and came out into the waiting area where my husband patiently sat, and I didn’t know what to say, except that “it wasn’t good”.  He worries enough for both of us, so November 22 is also the day that his life changed forever, which still makes me so sad.  He had just started a new job, which he threw himself into; work was a lifeline for both of us I suppose. 

When we met the surgeon, the brilliant Dr Maharra at Mediclinic Welcare, she confirmed that it was, in fact, highly likely to be cancer, and then the battery of tests began, to confirm the diagnosis and stage it. 

So began the darkest time of my life, most of which was spent in a self-pitying daze, where every thought of my little boy growing up without me made me break down, while my husband looked helplessly on. 

Our bucket list trip to Dublin to see U2 play was marred by this black cloud hanging over our heads (but boy, still, what a show!). Such a different experience to our earlier trip to the same city in the summer of 2015, where I felt that Dublin was quite possibly the happiest place on earth.  

Have a question for Emma? Write to us at readers@gulfnews.com

This is a weekly blog, by Emma Rymer. Emma is a long-time UAE resident, employed in a private sector firm. She was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2015 and was cleared by the doctors as completely cancer-free in early 2018. She writes this weekly blog in the hope that other women or men going through the same process can find strength and resilience from her journey. Emma lives in Dubai with her family.