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Jeddah has its pulse on combating killer disease

Launches an awareness campaign to educate women on the advantages of early detection and treatment

Pink in hope
Image Credit: Supplied picture
Close to 4,000 women, clad in pink, gather on Thursday night in a stadium in Jeddah toform the world's biggest ribbon. They broke the previous record set in Germany in 2007.
Gulf News

Jeddah: When 45-year-old Muneera Ebrahim felt a tumour in her breast in 2006, she kept silent about it for several months. She didn't want to share the news with anybody.

The Saudi woman feared that she could die at any moment.

"I started to take lots of photographs with my little daughter, so I could leave some memories behind for her," she recalls.

"They were very frightening days. I was terrified of the thought of having to confront the cancer. It wasn't an easy thought, even though I've read a lot about how to deal with issues, including cancer."

Muneera lived in fear for an incredible four months, because she "thought that cancer would lead to death". She used to think: "Why should I bother myself with the painful treatment?"

Room for hope

But eventually she agreed to visit a hospital and underwent tests. She was then confronted with a medical report, stating that she had stage two breast cancer.

With the support of her family and husband, she underwent chemotherapy, surgery and radiation treatment.

Today, Muneera is among a number of Saudi women, encouraging other women in the country to undergo regular medical check-ups as part of a national and international campaign to fight breast cancer — the most diagnosed form of cancer amongst women in Saudi Arabia.

Raising awareness and spreading knowledge of the disease are some of the goals that the doctors, researchers, as well as survivors and volunteers hope to achieve through the campaign.

The essence of their message is that the earlier the cancer is detected, the higher the chances of it being cured.

Breast cancer is the most-diagnosed form of cancer in Saudi Arabia, accounting for 12.4 per cent of all cancers and 23.6 per cent of cancers amongst women, according to a study by the Saudi Cancer Registry.

"Let it be known that, as of this day, ignorance is no longer an excuse and no woman should be allowed to be left to suffer in silence," Princess Reema Bint Bandar Bin Sultan said at the launch of the Saudi campaign — an awareness programme which culminated in Jeddah on Thursday.

Fadia Taweel, a well-known journalist with MBC TV channel in Riyadh was one of the participants.

The Jordanian woman pointed out that there is always hope, and people should not give up early on. She stressed that it's important to have a positive outlook.

Fadia, 39, was diagnosed with breast cancer six years ago and underwent treatment. However, last year the cancer returned and this time, in the bones of her chest. She has now been diagnosed with stage four cancer and is currently being treated at the King Faisal Specialist Hospital in Riyadh.

Living with it

"The most important thing is that the person knows how to live with [cancer].

"It's like other diseases, diabetes and kidney problems for example, which require medication to be taken for the rest of your life," she says.

But far from feeling sorry for herself, the woman is an inspiration and full of hope.

Having to dealing with cancer, she says, made her feel like a "strong person" and has meant that she found "unusual strength" in herself.

"It's not a terminal disease if the person knows how to face it, and science is advancing very rapidly in treating it," she says.