Dubai: At first glance, Shayesteh LaBelle seems to lead a charmed life. She has three successful children, a loving husband, a thriving career and a beautiful home by the beach.

But few know that she had breast cancer, fought it and had won. But LaBelle knew there was no question of giving up.

“I felt I couldn't die now. I had not finished my duty on earth. I want to dance at my children's wedding and look after my grandkids. My son just got married, my daughter is engaged and my other son just got into Harvard,'' she told Gulf News.

The world of this UAE representative of a company selling blast-resistant and acoustic doors, changed for ever when she discovered a lump in her right breast on June 28, 2002, which felt to her like a “hard walnut''.

She went to the UK, where she was diagnosed and had a lumpectomy. Chemotherapy and radiotherapy followed.

She lost her hair, threw up a lot and was tired. During this time, her family was her steadfast and supportive. “My husband kept me going; he was there holding my hand, he was there when I threw up. He was worried he was going lose me.


“And my children, they stopped having a social life because they wanted to spend more time with me,'' she said. According to her cancer affected her family in other ways too. Her youngest son decided to major in medicine. The family grew even closer and her children, more protective.

She also found out who her friends were and who were not. Some were just insensitive.

“One friend, who I thought I was close to, said ‘Oh, you're the third friend who's got breast cancer. Cool, it's third time lucky so I won't get it','' LaBelle said. But she thinks the biggest change to her was a new appreciation of life. “I stop and smell the roses. I see the sea in a different way... I learned not to stress out too much,'' she said.

Fast facts

This table lists the range of treatment costs for cancer in Dubai. Prices vary according to individual cases and the institutions involved.

Private (from screening to diagnosis)
Consultation: Dh500 to Dh1,000
Labwork: from Dh200 upwards per test
Biopsies: Dh600 to more than Dh1,000
Diagnostic tests: (mammograms and ultrasound) Dh660 to more than Dh2,000

Public (from screening to diagnosis to treatment)
Consultation, labwork and biopsies: About Dh1,000 per cycle
Diagnostic tests (mammograms and ultrasound): free unless noted
Radiotherapy/Chemotherapy: free
Outpatient drugs: about Dh400 per cycle

With inputs from Dina El Shammaa, Staff Reporter