January 08, 2017 12:00 AM | by Amira Azzouz
Warriors in Pink Series: Eslah El-Ghazzawi On Strength and Disappointments When Dealing with Breast Cancer
Warriors in Pink is a movement by Ford Motor Company, which focuses on fighting against breast cancer; be it by raising funds or awareness, and they have been doing it for over 20 years now. During their Warriors in Pink session in Egypt, I met four beautiful ladies, each with a completely different take on life, but the one thing they had in common was their inspiring story on how they fought breast cancer.
Meet Eslah El-Ghazzawi, a 43-year-old lady with a wise approach to life. When I asked her to share with me one interesting fact about herself, she said she sees herself as a tender person who doesn’t trust easily. Scroll down to read Eslah El-Ghazzawi’s story. (Story 2 of 4)
Amira: Why did you decide to be part of the Warriors in Pink movement?
Eslah: I consider myself a strong woman, mainly because of the things I’ve gone through in life including breast cancer, and people need to see more of that.
Amira: When and how did you find out you had breast cancer?
Eslah: I found out I had breast cancer around April, last year, approximately over a year ago. I found that out by coincidence. All I knew back then about cancer was that some people would get it, they would all then get the same treatment, and at the end most of them wouldn’t make it.
Amira: So what changed your perspective on that last part?
Eslah: When I went through it myself. As soon as I found out I had cancer, I wasn’t scared, not even one bit.
Amira: You weren’t scared because you were still in the shock phase?
Eslah: Not really. See, the doctor I met when doing my x-rays, immediately told me that I had cancer, and even an advanced stage of it. I asked her, how did you even know that? And she said it’s clear from the way it looks. I then asked her what I should do next? And she replied that it’s normal and I should just go to a doctor specializing in tumors. She was a bit annoying seeing that she took it very lightly. I searched for doctors because I didn’t know anyone in that field. I was lucky however, as the first tumor doctor I came across was the one who continued with me until I recovered.
Amira: Who supported you the most back then?
Eslah: Six people at the beginning; my brother-in-law, my sister, and my four girls. Then some of my friends and other friends I made who went through the same journey. We all support one another.
Amira: How crucial is it to have a support group within an organization such as BCFE?
Eslah: It’s very important. When you meet the survivors, they instantly give you hope.
Amira: How did you react when you found out you had cancer?
Eslah: I never thought of the idea of death, not even for a second. That was also the case while going through chemotherapy. That’s something I’m very thankful for to be honest.
Amira: What’s one thing that shocked you?
Eslah: Expectations. Let me elaborate on that. There were certain people you thought would be there for you, and they would be shocked by what you’re going through or even worry about you. That wasn’t however the case with them. Their concern faded out quickly and eventually they stopped asking about me. At the beginning, I took it very personal, and told myself if they ever come back, I wouldn’t let them in, because they weren’t by my side when I needed them the most. Then I came to the conclusion that the best thing to do with people like that, is to let them in normally again, but on the sidelines. You shouldn’t treat them the same anymore, nor let them into your inner circle, and that on its own will get to them, as they would expect things to go back to normal again. I do however understand that this differs from one person to the other and not everyone could handle such a situation the way I did. I thought to myself, why would I bother myself because of people who don’t care, keep on thinking and worrying about them? Let them be like anyone else, just a regular acquaintance.
Amira: That’s very wise! Do you have any advice you’d like to share with women out there?
Eslah: From my own experience, I started noticing changes in my breast, the color and the fact that it was itchy, but for some reason ignored it. Every woman out there should know and understand her body very well, and hence notice any changes occurring. If that does happen she shouldn’t neglect it or get scared to do check-ups, as they’re crucial. Also, make sure to do a mammogram and don’t let it scare you, after all, early detection gives you a much better chance at recovery.
Amira: What’s your definition of a strong woman or person in general?
Eslah: There are three faces of strength. There’s external strength with internal weakness, and there’s internal strength with external weakness and finally there’s strength present from the inside as much as from the outside. I always thought of myself as a weak person, even though I’ve went through things tougher than cancer, in my opinion. The only time I actually witnessed my inner strength was when I was diagnosed with cancer and the way I dealt with it moving forward. A strong person is someone who doesn’t let things around them, no matter how tough they are, get to them. I know it’s easier said than done, however you fall and you pick yourself up again. Don’t be weak towards another person, certain circumstances nor way too emotional, because that tends to get the best of you.
Amira: What’s one thing you learned while fighting breast cancer?
Eslah: The world doesn’t start or stop at someone’s convenience. Only you can support yourself and get yourself out of tough times. You have to push yourself to become stronger from the inside, and to convince yourself that you can overcome anything that comes your way. If I don’t do that for myself, no one would be able to do it for me.