I was diagnosed with ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) in October 2013. It was explained to me that DCIS is considered as stage 0 breast cancer. It was unknown whether the condition would eventually progress into cancer, but as the DCIS was found in two spots of my left breast and after seeking more than one opinion, I decided not to take a chance and to have a full mastectomy and breast reconstruction.
The diagnosis came as a shock, followed by fear and apprehension, as cancer robbed me of my father when I was seven years old, then one of my three brothers died of cancer at the age of 47.
I am certainly fortunate that I did not have to go through chemotherapy or radiation therapy. Nevertheless, my operation was quite significant and the recovery took longer than I expected. I would say that even now I am still experiencing residual effects of the surgery.
Reflecting on my experience, I feel so blessed to have a supportive family and a caring community. I was overwhelmed by the kindness, warmth and generosity of my friends and colleagues within my Arabic-speaking community as well as my extended multicultural community.
I am of Lebanese background and have been in Australia for 40 years. Looking after the sick is somehow ingrained in our psyche. We have a word ‘wajbat‘ commonly used in the Lebanese community, and it refers to a set of duties to be performed on regular basis and which could range from visiting sick people, or families and friends to extend condolences, congratulations, or to welcome relatives from overseas. even to this day, some members of the Lebanese community dedicate regular time during their week to go and fulfil their wajbat.
I have not always appreciated such a tradition growing up, thinking it was too formal and perhaps sometimes executed for the wrong reason, but I have learnt to see this from a new perspective and value its intrinsic purpose and merit. It is a noble tradition enacted to remind us that to be human we need to be humane.