By Aya Bashiti
Zeina and her best friend Tala who survived cancer made an Instagram page under the name of “heal.jo”. This page was made for two reasons the first one is to raise awareness on what living with cancer feels like, what is the emotional and physical journey these girls had to go through, and to give advice about circumstances and situations that she had managed to overcome.
They posted photos and videos explaining their entire journey and the sometimes-painful reality about what cancer patients go through.
They even helped people talk about their stories with cancer or what their relatives went through due to cancer. I was one of the people who shared my mom’s story and how I got through it after her death.
Zeina decided to go check up on a kidney cyst that she had had since she was a child. Unfortunately, after the ultrasound the doctors found that there are two masses on her spleen. Her family got concerned and decided to consult other doctors concerning these masses.
Several doctors claimed that everything was fine and that these masses are nothing but ordinary. Except for one doctor who insisted that she should do more tests and look closer on that matter.
Zeina didn’t want to make the check up again somehow, she was sure it was nothing but two normal masses. However, her parents insisted on going to the doctor and doing the required test. The doctor made Zeina undergo several tests such as MRI, blood tests, ultrasound, and FNB. The most important test she had to do was the biopsy, as this is the test that gives the final result.
After the FNB she felt a horribly bad pain from her back and chest that left her motionless, she took a rest so she can complete her other tests later on.
Sadly, the results were alarming as the masses have grown in size and multiplied in number since January. The doctors made more tests for her, and after the final test came the drastic news, the doctor informed her and her family that she has Hodgkin lymphoma which is a type of cancer that grows in the infection-fighting cells and has two types:
1- Hodgkin’s lymphoma 2- Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
“I’ve never thought of it further than a movie or a TV show” Majd Alia.
Zeina’s first chemotherapy session.
Zeina was terrified of the idea of hair loss. That is why she decided to use a hypothermia cap, which is a therapeutic device used to cool the human scalp in order to prevent hair loss.
Her first chemotherapy session was almost painless, though she felt restless after it and wasn’t able to eat due to the nausea she got from the chemo. As she finished and went back home, she felt better seeing her family and friends around her showing her emotional and physical support. She felt that everything is going to end well.
Finally, she finished her 12 chemotherapy sessions and was cancer free after that.
Here’s a brief of what Zeina posted on her Instagram page about her cancer journey:
December. 31. 2019
“It’s strange, how time passing can have such a huge impact on your life. For a year of my life, I would sit and think, “I can’t wait for this to be over, for it to be a memory to look back on, not something I have to live through every single day”. That’s where I am right now, almostan entire year after my last session, and not a minute goes by where I am not grateful for anything that’s happened in my life.”
Cancer came back
The heartbreaking news came again, cancer attacked Zeina’s body once more. Once again, she was fighting for her young life. As strong as she was the first time, the idea of undergoing chemo therapy another time was devastating and scary. She thought she won the battle the first time which was by no means an easy battle so having to do it again broke her emotionally.
Her Instagram post said it all, “Going through cancer for the 2nd time, it felt like all the happiness I’ve been building up for a year and a half after my first diagnosis was being taken away from me, again.” – Zeina Haddadin
Zeina’s second time chemotherapy sessions
Chemo was almost the same as last time, the restless feeling after the sessions, the nausea and every other thing she overcame before came to her again. What was new this time is the radiotherapy which was neither painful nor had side effects, but to her it was new!
As she moved on with the therapy process, she came in peace with idea of being powerless sometimes and that there is nothing wrong with being not so strong throughout all of this.
She explained the process of the radiotherapy:
“you first go in for a CT scan, during this scan (IF you require a mask) the doctors will place warm wax over your face, neck and shoulders to create a mold that fits your exact features, you lay still for about 10 minutes until the wax hardens, this mask will be used every session. About a week later, I began my actual sessions, which are 5x a week and last about 15 minutes. My first session did not go as well as I hoped.”
“This disease will not be the reason that my life just stops, because there is so much more to me than being sick, and I hope that if I’m able to share my experience in such an open way here, I can help someone going through the same thing, and to let them know that everything happens for a reason, you just have to believe in it long enough to figure out what that reason is.”- Zeina Haddadin
Hopefully this is the last time
Zeina has finished her 10 chemo sessions and only 12 out of 20 radiotherapy session are left.
No one really knows what she has been through or what her pretty little eyes have seen, but I can reassure that she’ll get through this just like she got through everything before. She wears her pain in a very unique way… Always smiling, always positive…. always happy to help… It’s like a garment perfectly tailored to fit the way she carries it… with a touch of grace… and the quietness of that sad smile.
All so you’d never know how heavy it really was.
Impact of cancer
Perception of time
The diagnosis of cancer immediately affects your perception of time. You probably never thought about the length of your life until one is diagnosed with cancer. Cancer and the thought of death go hand in hand. Throughout the process, you’ll find that you may become impatient, more sensitive and easily frustrated. As you begin to regain your sense of normalcy, you appreciate the time you have and take advantage of the day.
Appreciation of the simple things in life
Before cancer, one just goes about their day-to-day routine. After receiving a cancer diagnosis, whether it was you or someone close to you or a family member, you will reflect on how precious life is, and develop a greater appreciation for the simple things. You won’t be annoyed by the birds’ voices in the morning.
Your inner strength will increase
You’ve been thoroughly tested, both mentally and physically. You become stronger and now know what you’re capable of. Surviving cancer is a major accomplishment and will result in a continuous growth of your inner strength.
You are brave enough to survive cancer
Hope and faith, along with a strong community of support in the form of family, friends, and other survivors, helps cancer patients walk the dark alleys of the disease. One very important source of motivation is learning about the survival stories of some brave hearts who have beat the odds. Reading about how somebody in the same boat dealt with diagnosis and survived it certainly boosts the morale and also provides helpful tips as individuals and their families try to make sense of the situation.
Don’t let your dreams fade because of cancer or because of anything else, live your life day by day, be happy, be positive, and most important be yourself, you might get sad, you might get broken but this is normal through every journey, just know that you must get out of these sad days, not just for your family and friends but for yourself.