Hello, my name is Gail Benobaid and I really appreciate that ‘The Print’ has asked me to talk about my experience with cancer. What I am writing to you now is a snapshot of me, my story, and my journey.
It all started in September 2014 where I went to a private hospital for a routine mammogram which showed a cyst, but the radiologist did not seem overly concerned and suggested I return in 6 months for another check. Three months later I noticed a large prominent lump in my right breast and went straight back to the hospital where after numerous testing my results were told to me on my birthday of all days that there was a suspicious mass and had to have an immediate biopsy. When hearing the word ‘mass’ I knew I was in trouble. The biopsy results concluded that I had stage 2 Invasive Ductal Carcinoma (Breast Cancer) and it had also spread to my lymph nodes in my arm. What can I tell you, but that you never forget the feeling of pure disbelief and utter shock. My world came crashing down and not only for me but how will it affect my husband, my children, and my friends. The doctor at the time patiently explained the probable treatment plan and I still hear her words ‘You are not the first and you will not be the last’. At that point I had 2 choices – either I crumple up and go into the spiral of anger and resentment, the ‘Why me’ OR go on the path of ‘Fight Like a girl – I will get through this and I need to be strong, the strongest I have ever been’.
The next tough blow was telling my children who were in high school like yourselves at the time. That truly took all my strength, but I told them I am going to do my best to beat this and I don’t want this disease to destroy you too, so keep working hard and focus on school. With the tough blows also came the support and love of my close friends and my colleagues from NES who not only supported me but kept a caring and watchful eye on my children while I was going through my treatment. It was overwhelming and I will be forever grateful to them. And so it begins!
I was referred to the Hussain Makki Jumaa Hospital – Kuwait Cancer Control Center and they worked fast starting my treatment which was 6 months chemotherapy and operation to remove my breast and 5 weeks radiation. The hospital was very good and cannot complain; it had become my second home. It was important to me to receive my treatment here so to keep myself, my husband, and my children strong and positive and not disrupt their lives due to my illness. I would have chemotherapy and the next day use all my power to drive the children to school to show them my strength. This is where I learned my first lesson that I have no control and to take one step at a time. I also learned in my journey that I did not want FEAR to rule me, so I decided that LOVE is greater than fear and I choose to love myself, my family and life. To be as positive as I could be. Cancer hates Positiveness. Most of the time my chemo treatments felt like a bad case of flu and achy bones and off course losing my hair was a little difficult in the beginning but had fun with different wigs. Finally, the power of prayer gave me comfort and peace in a way I have never experienced. When you lay on a bed receiving chemotherapy, CT scans, or your own bed alone in your thoughts, and at times not feeling well and weak, praying turns into a deep, real, honest open conversation which became my strength and courage.
So where am I today… Still sometimes fear will creep back with the thought ‘What if it comes back? But the constant check-ups is part of my life now. I am still fighting this disease physically and spiritually. My view of life has changed a lot. Each day matters, I have slowed down, doing my best not to let stress take over, laugh more, love more and more importantly give back to the community either in charity or supporting other cancer patients for example. It is very important to self-check with breast examinations as there is more chance to be cured if detected early.
So did I get unfortunate or loads of bad luck with my illness?
Although it’s been tough, cancer has done me a favor. It has made me change for the better and to become stronger. I would like to end my story with a poem written by Elayne Lansing who was a radiologist for 32 years, and she wrote this poem to honor all her patients and friends who have taken the breast cancer journey.
A battle was about to begin
When I found I had cancer cells within
They are cells that refuse to die
Not surprising, because so do I.
My plan was to stare it in the face
Find the doctor who would be best for my case
Fight it with prayer, courage, and grace,
But it had an agenda all on its own
Insidious, and to me, still unknown
Round One: It was Cancer’s
I came out slow as I searched for answers.
My world went from structured and sane
To one of chaos, as I felt my strength drain
(My friends and family helped me sustain).
Round Two: I came out stronger…
It wasn’t going to dominate any longer
I wanted to go the distance, I had it on the ropes
And I started to see there was reason to hope.
Chemo really packed a punch
Yet i had to wonder…..
Are the cells still dividing
Or are they down for the count and dying?
I heard the crowd cheer, ‘Hang On – Stay Strong!
Round Three: The money was on me….
My radiation was doing a cancer annihilation.
I felt I changed in a way hard to explain
I had learned how to cope
And saw my life in a different scope
Optimism took the place of fear
Smiles took the place of tears.
Life didn’t stop as the battle went on
Some relationships strengthened, others waned
I wasn’t immune to life’s other pains.
KNOCKOUT: The battle is finally over…
In some ways life’s better
I’m more prepared to face whatever
Nothing’s taken for granted. But a high price to pay to get to this day.