LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Graduating after surviving breast cancer as a student


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TO THE EDITOR:

At the end of July 2015, I noticed a small lump on my right breast and honestly, I was worried. None of my family had breast cancer, but this didn't mean that I might not get it.

After multiple tests, I had a biopsy taken in October. On Nov. 4, 2015, I received the shocking news.

“We're sorry but the tests came back positive.”

My world literally closed on me. I am a mother of twin-daughters, who were seven years old by then.

I was refereed to McLaren for a MRI. Dr. Sandra Howell informed me that I had four tumors that spread on the right breast. Pathology tests also indicated that I had Stage 2 breast cancer.

There was a 25 percent chance that I'd get cancer on my left breast. I was advised to go on with a single mastectomy.

I loved my body, I loved how I looked, and having to decide to go on with mastectomy was a relative death sentence.

I decided to get a double mastectomy. I was so scared to tell my parents that I had cancer, so I decided to tell two of my brothers. Once I was done, I would tell my parents and my sister.

When I woke up from surgery, I felt different. I cried. I was frustrated. I was depressed, and mad.

I received an email from my professor, Jeanne Chaffin. I wouldn't have survived without her support.

Once I got back home, I was so depressed, looked into myself in the mirror. I felt so incomplete. I didn't feel feminine anymore.

I was shocked when my kids told me that I don't need my breast to feel or look pretty.

“You are a great mom and you are pretty the way you are,” they said.

Their words helped me a lot in gaining my self-confidence. I had millions of thoughts running through my head, but I couldn’t give up. I needed to get my degree, and nothing, not even cancer, will ever stop me from achieving my dreams.

Here I am, alive, and graduating this semester.

I cut my long hair and donated it to Wigs for Kids. Those who knew about my cancer were very supportive, my professors were amazing and supported me tremendously.

I saw my oncologist, and was blessed to know that I only needed hormonal therapy.

I am blessed that I didn't listen to those who told me not to worry about the lump. I'm blessed that I found out about it early, and didn't allow cancer to break me. I am young. I am a mother. I am someone's idol.

I hope my story will empower other women. It is ok to be scared. It is OK to cry. Don’t ever let that beast beat you.

I am blessed for every single person who supported me. For those who wiped my tears and out a smile on my face. I am here now because of you.

To all the women who currently have or have had breast cancer: stay strong.

HALAH ALAJAJ
CMU Senior
Law & Economics



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