Thursday,19 July, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1246, (14 - 20 May 2015)
Thursday,19 July, 2018
Issue 1246, (14 - 20 May 2015)

Ahram Weekly

You’re still beautiful

For the first time in the Middle East a group of artists is working to support the fight against breast cancer, reports Ghada Abdel-Kader

Al-Ahram Weekly

“My victory over breast cancer was the result not only of enduring the different stages of the therapy, but also of overcoming the feeling that it could diminish my femininity,” said Ghada Salah, a breast cancer survivor.

To help address such fears, the Egyptian Breast Cancer Foundation officially launched the song “Lissa Gamila” (You’re Still Beautiful) last Friday, the first of its kind in the Middle East aiming to support breast cancer patients. The song tells the true story of breast cancer survivor Ghada Salah and her battle to combat the disease.

The song is performed by a group of ten Egyptian singers from different generations and backgrounds, including such well-known names as Hanan Madi, Salma Al-Sabahi, Mai Abdel-Aziz, Fairouz Karawaya, Menna Hussein, Mustafa Shawki, Mohamed Ali, Ahmed Hassan, Rania Al-Adawi and Osama Al-Hadi.

The lyrics were written by veteran poet Walid Abdel-Moneim, the music was composed and directed by Osama Al-Hadi. “Lissa Gamila” was premiered on Thursday night on the talk show “Ma’akom Mona al-Shazali”, broadcast on the MBC Masr TV channel. The song was then made available on the Egyptian Breast Cancer Foundation’s YouTube channel and other social media platforms.

“It took me about four months to finish the whole project, including the video-clip shooting and montage,” Abdel-Moneim said.

“Though the song will put a big smile on your face, you can’t stop the tears while hearing it. The song is full of emotion, optimism, tranquillity and hope for every woman suffering from the disease. In my lyrics, I tried to highlight the fact that despite her feelings of sadness, fear and weakness, Salah remains beautiful and still retains her femininity,” he added.

“I was really touched by Salah’s story. It wasn’t so easy to write a song on such a sensitive issue as some people consider it taboo, but I was enthusiastic about the idea. Most of my works discuss women’s issues, and Salah had always followed my work on Facebook. It was because of this that she asked me to write a song about her personal experience with breast cancer,” said Abdel-Moneim.

Salah, 49, is married and is the mother of two sons, one 15 and the other 22. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and a Master’s from the American University in Cairo and works as a teacher in a nursery school. Her story started almost two years ago when she discovered a lump in her right breast.

“It was a great shock. But despite my feelings of fear and anger and worrying reactions, I had a deep feeling of hope. Early detection of breast cancer means a relatively high cure rate,” Salah said.

On telling her family, neighbours and work colleagues the biopsy results, Salah was overwhelmed by their support and kindness. “The most difficult part was telling my sons,” she recalls. “My sons weren’t so young. They can read about the disease. Though they stayed calm and steady, deep inside they were worrying about me.

“Even my mother was in a state of disbelief for a while, as the family had had a previous bad experience with cancer when my father died after a long fight against bone marrow cancer,” she said.

Salah’s husband was a huge support, standing by her side and doing everything possible to help her. “When I lost my hair during chemotherapy he kept encouraging me, saying you’re looking so young and prettier than before,” she said.

After medical consultations and advice from a panel of doctors, Salah had to undergo a lumpectomy operation followed by chemotherapy, targeted therapy, radiotherapy and a five-year hormonal treatment plan.

“After the surgery, my mother kissed my forehead gently and told me not to worry. I felt relieved, took a deep breath and fell asleep. After the diagnosis, operation and the first cycle of chemotherapy, the succeeding phases moved very quickly,” Salah said.

She took time off work and paced herself physically, emotionally and mentally. The hair fall was due 18 days after her first encounter with chemotherapy. She went to London to doublecheck the treatment plan and brought back accessories to help her cope with what was to follow.

“I made a point of doing things that made me feel good. I rested when I needed to rest, and I went out when I could. I also tried new looks, wearing scarves, hats and wigs, for example,” she said.

“I became aware that the chemotherapy had not only invaded my physical body but had also clouded my mind and emotions. But later I was able to live peacefully and accept it as a temporary phase in my life that I was determined to overcome,” she added.

With the last cycles of the chemotherapy, her hair started growing back. “I wore my new hairstyle proudly and stopped covering it up in public,” Salah said. The worst part was over. But then it was time for the radiotherapy.

Today, Salah is in last stage of her treatment, the hormone therapy. There are certain hormones that can attach themselves to breast cancer cells and affect their ability to multiply. The female hormones estrogen and progesterone can promote the growth of some breast cancer cells, so they have to be counteracted.

 “It’s five-year treatment plan. I have now spent a year and a half in hormone therapy, so I still have three and a half years to go,” she said.

One of the greatest tests in anyone’s life is being able to bless someone else while going through a storm of one’s own. But, after what she had gone through. Salah was determined to help other women going through the fight against cancer.

When she was in London she saw a storybook called Mummy’s Lump, written to help mothers with breast cancer deal explain their illness to their children. The book explains in a very simple way the different stages of breast cancer.

Inspired by this idea, Salah collaborated with an  Egyptian NGO, Amal Masr (Egypt’s Hope) to acquire the rights of translating the book into Arabic. “We made a new storyboard and printed the book, and it’s now available in all cancer centres,” Salah said proudly.

Believing that she has a message to deliver, Salah is also keen to attend seminars, do presentations and talk in public about her personal experiences to inspire other women in the fight against cancer.

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