My life was really simple and ordinary until 2007, because on the 5th of February I was having a very normal day at school enjoying my time with my friends, but as soon as I got back home I realized that something had changed that turned my life upside down.
As I walked into the house calling “Assalamu Alaykum” loudly which was a habit of mine to let mum know that I am home, I heard some quiet wail that was followed with “Don’t worry honey, everything’s going to be alright!” At first, I thought that it was a scene from a movie playing on the TV until I realized it was dad’s voice. “That’s weird, Dad’s usually at work at this time!” Thought I.
I ran to my parents’ room where I saw mum crying like I’ve never seen her when she tears because of a sad ending of a romantic movie, and dad was there holding her hand with his eyes filled with tears. I came in and asked: “What’s wrong?” None of them answered. Instead, mum opened her arms for me asking for a hug, but I insisted to know what’s with all this gloominess, so I asked again: “What’s up mum? Dad?” But mum’s cry just got louder, so I obeyed and got closer to hug her.
She hugged me so tight as if I didn’t see her in the morning before leaving to school, and kissed my forehead a million times as if this was our last time seeing each other. I glanced at Dads hand holding some papers, “What’re these Dad?” I asked. Dad put the papers down and answered me while forcing a fake smile on his face: “We’ll talk about it after lunch sweetie when your brother Hatem is home too, now go to your room, change your clothes and get ready.”
During lunch everyone was eating silently except for mum who was staring at the food with her eyes still red, and didn’t take a single morsel of Couscous, which was her favorite meal. After lunch, while we were eating fruits, dad started: “Well, dear Rana and Hatem, we all know that Mum’s been feeling sick lately, so she and I went to Dr. Fadi -your friend Maram’s father- 2 days ago and he asked her for some tests, and we got their results today.”
“Then why all the tears dad? Mum has probably caught a cold because of the cold weather, right mum?” Said I as I looked at mum.
“Tears?! What tears?” Asked Hatem, who saw nothing earlier because he was still at kindergarten when I got back home.
“Well, no.” Answered mum. “It’s not a cold, sweetheart.” And she teared again, looking at dad asking him to explain.
“My dears, the results say that mummy is having a problem that doctors call Cancer.. Breast cancer.”
“Is it the same thing auntie Fatima used to have?” Asked Hatem curiously.
“Yes, that’s it.” Said mum.
“Then nothing is so serious about it mummy!” Said I, smiling.
“I don’t know.” Murmured mum, looking down.
“What?!” I shouted. “But Aunt Fatima survived, and even though it’s been almost 2 years now yet she’s living like nothing happened. You’re strong too, mum!”
“But Mum’s case is different sweetie.” Said Dad, seeming worried.
“Isn’t it the same goddamned disease?” I argued.
“It is.” Said mum. “But I’m afraid that in my case it’s too late.”
“LIARS!” I cried, as I left running to my room. I threw myself onto my bed with hot tears running down my cheeks. I got my Ipad and started
Googling: “Breast cancer” > search.
I read a hundred pages of researches about breast cancer, and oh my God! They’re mentioning everything mum’s been complaining about under the headline “symptoms of stage 4”, which they said is the most dangerous.
This can’t be happening! I must be dreaming! I actually tried to convince myself that I was dreaming until I really fell asleep.
A few days later, my parents left Libya to visit a well known Doctor in Jordan who recommended chemotherapy.
My friend Maram Fadi -mum’s doctor’s daughter- told me that her father said that my mum could’ve been easily saved by a surgery if she knew better about (breast self-examination), because detecting the disease in earlier stages gives a bigger chance to live, but I just ignored her convincing myself that mum’s going to be back home soon.
The days felt long with my parents away even though we were video chatting with them daily. Mum looked paler with every passing day, though she kept on smiling and telling us that she’s okay, but deep inside I knew that she was slowly dying.
3 weeks after my parents’ trip they came back because mum wanted to spend her last days with us at home, and 3 days later she passed away. For a second, I hated mum for not being strong enough, for not knowing better, but soon I was convinced that it was her fate.
Since October that year and until now, my family and Maram’s have been organizing an annual campaign that we named (KNOW BETTER) to raise awareness of people of how important it is to perform breast self-examination at least once a month because that can save their souls, and who knows, if mum knew better she could’ve been alive, trying to make others aware too.
Written on the 29th of September 2014.