Breast cancer survivors share tales of their epic battle against disease, social taboo

Zubair Qureshi

Participants of a panel discussion on ‘breast cancer’ held at Serena Hotel listened to survivors of the fatal disease— Sadaf Tufail, Humaira Shazia and Humaira Imtiaz— in awe and got inspiration from them as they waged an epic battle against breast cancer and not only overcame it but also continued their normal social and family life.

They shared how they faced difficulties in continuing their normal life with the stigma usually attached with breast cancer in society and it was only their willpower and support from the family that they survived both, the disease and social alienation.

After listening to these courageous ladies, many in the audience held they were indeed the role model for not only the breast cancer patients but also the women and the men alike.

The informative and morale-boosting panel discussion titled “Breast Cancer Awareness – Early Detection Saves Lives’ was held at Serena Hotels in collaboration with Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital and Research Center (SKMCH&RC), to mark the October Breast Cancer Awareness Month or ‘Pinktober’.

The event was a part of the Raabta, a public diplomacy initiative of Serena Hotels, which aims to facilitate conversations and public discourse about important issues of national concern.

The discussion was moderated by broadcast journalist Sidra Iqbal and featured a senior Oncologist from SKMCH&RC Dr. Umme Kalsoom Awan, and a number of breast cancer survivors who came forward to share their experience and dispel misconceptions about the disease.

First Lady Samina Arif Alvi addressed the occasion via video call and urged the audience to take time out for regular checkups, yearly mammograms and self-check routine in order to catch the early onset of the disease.

Co-founder and curator of Raabta, broadcast journalist Sidra Iqbal said in her opening remarks that Pakistan has one of the highest incidences of breast cancer in the world, with 40-50 thousand women being diagnosed yearly.

The breast cancer survivors on the panel spoke about the taboos, misconceptions and emotional upheaval faced by patients in our society and shared messages of hope and inspiration for fellow patients and their families.

They appreciated the support and treatment facilities at SKMTH&RC and highlighted the problems faced by the underprivileged section of the society when facing the emotional and financial impact of battling breast cancer.

“Being diagnosed with breast cancer is not the end of the world, you have to have willpower and social support to face it,” remarked Ms. Sadaf Tufail, a survivor from Islamabad.

“As women, we often consider ourselves the last priority, however we need to realise that if we don’t care for ourselves we cannot care for others,” said Humaira Shazia, a marketing professional Lahore who had overcome breast cancer.

Another survivor, Humaira Imtiaz, Senior Manager Curriculum at Beaconhouse Head Office, shared her journey from shock to denial, and urged women to be more supportive of those battling this disease.