“I am ready to accept whatever happens”: Khadiji’s battle with breast cancer in Lebanon

Over the past three years, Khadiji* has had three surgeries to remove lumps in her breast. According to her doctor, the lumps were not cancerous, and after each surgery she was given anti-inflammatory medication.

“I was doing fine after my last surgery, until a few of months ago when I noticed an inflammation in my breast, bleeding and secretions from my nipple. I have also lost 20 kilograms without changing my diet or lifestyle,” she said.

Khadiji, 42, also has high blood pressure and diabetes. She lives with her seven children and grandchildren, who are all reliant on humanitarian assistance, in the Palestinian refugee camp of Ein el Helweh in Lebanon. Her grandson, two-year-old Ahmad*, has suffered from respiratory problems since birth and has to take regular medication. But medicines are increasingly unavailable and unaffordable for Palestinian refugees, 93% of whom are now living in poverty.

Concerned about her health, Khadiji is keen to get her latest symptoms checked out. “My financial situation now doesn't allow me to do diagnostic tests or pay for a doctor’s consultation,” she said. “I cannot afford another breast surgery.”

The cost of her previous breast surgeries were partially covered by UNRWA (the UN agency for Palestinian refugees) and from the goodwill of other Palestinians inside the refugee camp. “I would have not been able to pay for the surgeries without this support,” she added.

In October, Khadiji heard about a campaign, organised every year during Breast Cancer Awareness Month by Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP) and their partner in Lebanon, Naba’a. The campaign raises awareness about breast cancer, promotes early detection, and offers free consultations with doctors at reproductive health clinics and referrals for free testing.

“When I heard about the campaign, I wanted to attend an awareness session about breast cancer to know more about the disease that took the lives of my mother, my sister and my brother,” said Khadiji. “My sister was very ill, but she refused to be examined and even hid the illness from us because she was afraid. She didn’t want to die and leave her disabled daughter alone.”

“In the last period before passing away, my sister became very ill, so we took her to see a doctor. But unfortunately, it was too late. She was diagnosed with terminal breast cancer and died 20 days later.”

When Khadiji attended the session with Kafa, a Reproductive Health Nurse, she realised that she has all the signs and symptoms of breast cancer. She told Kafa about her condition and her family’s history with breast cancer. A doctor at the clinic examined Khadiji and referred her for a free mammogram. “I am waiting for the results and ready to accept them whatever happens,” she said.

Despite the incredibly challenging circumstances facing Khadiji, she has a remarkably hopeful outlook on life. She is now more determined than ever to ensure the women closest to her do not experience what she has been through.

“I learnt a lot from the awareness sessions and the survivors who shared their stories. Now, I will tell my sisters and daughters that they should pay attention to themselves and get examined, because we are at a greater risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer,” she said.

Your support brings life-saving treatment to Palestinian women like Khadiji. Please consider making a donation today.


*Names changed to protect identity.

Photo: Women attend an open day during MAP and Naba’a’s breast cancer awareness campaign activities. (Credit Wafa Dakwar / MAP).

Stay updated – join our mailing list

* indicates required
Your Interests