Nothing can stop a woman from achieving goals and Nancy Awwad stands as a true testament of a lady’s will to shine and excel. After building a remarkable career with her role as a Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant, she has gone through her battle with breast cancer. However, that didn’t stop her from getting back up and exploring a new side of life by establishing the fashion jewelry brand “Penelope Made This” along with her daughter.
Paying tribute to heroines like her, Azyaamode launches a series of interviews with women who are as strong as she is. A journey to inspire, here she is sharing hers, as well as some insights that would make it somehow easier for those who are going through the same or witnessing a loved one facing this challenge.
What were some of the most significant lessons or insights you gained during your breast cancer journey?
I have discovered the importance of loving myself before extending that love to others. I have learned to prioritize my well-being by saying no to anything that would hinder my progress and yes to everything that allows me to move forward.
How did you maintain a positive outlook and mental resilience throughout your treatment and recovery?
To be honest, it was an incredibly challenging journey. Initially, I was overwhelmed with shock and denial. After my surgery, I resisted starting my other treatments due to the numerous side effects associated with them. Recognizing my fear, my oncologist suggested therapy as an option. During my sessions with the psychotherapist, I primarily discussed my children, my daily life, and seemingly insignificant matters that puzzled me. Simply sharing these thoughts with someone made me realize that my deepest fear revolved around the possibility of losing precious time with those I hold dear. Starting the treatments gradually transformed from a daunting prospect to a necessity in order to conquer my fear of mortality and ensure that I could witness my children's growth.
As a working woman, how did your battle affect your career?
When I had my second child, I have taken on the path of self-employment, a decision I made long ago to achieve a delicate balance between my work, utilizing my skills, and being present for my children's needs while cherishing our time together.
When I received the news about the anomaly detected in my MRI results, which required further investigation, I made the choice to take a two-year leave of absence from my profession as an immigration consultant for Canada. In an attempt to distract myself from the potential illness, I engaged in some management consultancy work to experience a change of pace. However, following the surgery, I had to relinquish that job due to my limited mobility and intolerance to the heat in Dubai when working in the field. It was then that I decided to redirect my efforts towards a small project that my 10-year-old daughter was enthusiastic about exploring at the time.
Reflecting on the journey, I can confidently affirm that this shift in focus, working alongside my daughter Penelope on her fashion jewelry business, has revolutionized my life. It provided me with a fresh avenue to channel my resentment and anger, ultimately resulting in the establishment of “Penelope Made This”, a flourishing business that we are immensely proud of.
In what ways has your lifestyle, such as diet and exercise, changed since your diagnosis, and do you believe these changes contributed to your recovery?
I have always been conscious of maintaining a healthy diet, preparing my meals using the least toxic ingredients I could find (to the best of my knowledge).
However, let me assure you that exercise was not an option for me for quite a while. I had to patiently wait for my wounds to heal before engaging in any physical activity. Additionally, I was advised not to lift heavy objects with the hand from which lymph nodes were removed. Moreover, the more I would sweat, the more my skin would peel off due to the effects of radiation therapy.
As a result of these mobility limitations, combined with cancer hormonal therapy, I experienced weight gain and started searching for alternative solutions. I explored options such as adopting a keto diet, receiving lymphatic massages, and trying skin rejuvenation techniques, all aimed at helping me regain my shape.
I am pleased to share that six months ago, I regained control over my body weight gain. My efforts to watch my diet and incorporate more activities into my daily routine have started to yield positive results.
What advice do you have for family members and friends who want to support a loved one going through breast cancer?
My advice would be to listen carefully and wait for their guidance on how you can assist them.
Instead of immediately reassuring them that everything will be fine, and belittle their worries, it's better to acknowledge their fears and give them space to express their concerns. It's best not to let your own worries show, as they need your support rather than having to reassure you. Let them know that you'll be there for them and their children throughout their journey to recovery, even in the face of challenges and setbacks. Assure them that you'll stay strong and capable, helping them until they regain full control over their health.
Speaking from my own experience, I didn't share my cancer diagnosis with anyone, including my family members, until just two days before my procedure. I did this because I didn't want to see the worry and sadness in their eyes and I didn’t have the energy or time to assure them that I chose the right path for recovery.
Can you describe any advocacy or awareness efforts you've been involved in since becoming a breast cancer survivor?
This is perhaps the second time I have openly shared my breast cancer journey in a public setting. To be honest, I've never been fond of the term "survivor" because it fails to capture the depth and complexity of the ongoing journey. Only those who are on the same path truly understand what it means and feels like.
However, I have received commendations from many new people I've met for my ability to lead a beautiful life since waking up from surgery, radiating smiles and positive energy. They have been inspired by how I have faced the challenges that life has thrown at me with kindness and generosity. Their recognition of my resilience has deeply touched me and inspired me to give back on a daily basis to random people who, like cancer patients, needed attention and help.
Article Written by Mirella Haddad
Article reproduced from Azyaamode