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My journey with breast cancer started the day I felt a lump in my right breast and was then diagnosed with advanced stage breast cancer. This was on April 12, 2006 which, by the way, is my birthday! Since then I have felt that this is a message from God and my illness is meant to be for a good reason. As a doctor, a woman, a writer for newspapers and as a human being, I felt it was my duty and responsibility to go public with this battle against breast cancer and break the silence. This was of particular importance in Saudi Arabia where 70-80 percent of our breast cancer cases are diagnosed in the late stages compared with only 15-20 percent in the U.S. Even more serious is the fact that 30 percent of our patients are less than 40 years old, compared with only seven percent in the U.S.

In closed societies such as ours, cancer is taboo, a stigma to some, and there are a lot of misconceptions about the disease and treatment - especially chemotherapy. These are the reasons why I decided to go public. I use my weekly column to write a series of articles about my story, have been interviewed on many TV channels and present a weekly program called "Messages of Love." I was determined to raise public awareness, break the silence and help empower women to know about their own health. Now, after one year, I feel that the first step in this battle is to reach a world free of breast cancer, not only for me, but also for my little daughter Esraa - and every other daughter in this world.


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