Voices of Strength: Breast Cancer Survivors and Warriors Share Their Journey
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, a time dedicated to raising awareness about breast cancer, its prevention, early detection, and treatment. In an effort to shed light on the experiences of those who have battled this disease or continue to do so, the House embarked on a mission to interview breast cancer survivors and warriors. Through their inspiring stories, we hope to honor their resilience, acknowledge their struggles, and inspire hope in those who are currently facing this challenge. In this article, we will introduce you to these incredible individuals, learn about their journeys and talk about how they pushed through.
Jovairia’s journey started when she self-checked her breast in the shower and felt a ‘tiny pebble’ as she describes it. Upon mentioning it to her friend, she was practically forced to go to a doctor who at first tried to dismiss her concern saying she was too young. However, Jovairia didn’t let it go and for good reason. She was sent for an ultrasound followed by a mammogram and two days of biopsies later, it was revealed that she had Invasive Carcinoma Type Three Grade Three.
“I was meeting a group of other friends and I was telling them that I've been diagnosed and I was doing this over ice cream because I was like, you know what? This is the best way I can tell someone and my male friends, they started crying. They were like, we don't know how to react and why are you so calm? Other people really don't know how to respond to such a news.”
Jovairia had her surgery before she started chemotherapy where she got her left breast removed. To her, the most challenging bit was seeing herself disappear bit by bit. Back from her first chemotherapy session, Jovairia remembers running her fingers through her hair and a bunch of her hair just fell out. She stood in front of the mirror and cried and decided to shave her hair off. By the next session, she had lost her eyelashes and eyebrows.
“Looking at myself in the mirror, I felt completely alienated. It wasn't just the hair, it was me. I had it on my left breast and I had it removed. So I did not feel like a woman because I didn't have a major part of my body with me. It was completely taken away from me. I think that took a huge toll on me. Not being able to associate myself as a woman at that point till I got my reconstruction surgery.”
Throughout her treatment, Jovairia remained surprisingly positive to herself and her friends and family. Instead of focusing on the negative, she tried to divert her attention to how she could move forward with the diagnosis. “What’s the worst that could happen? I could die.” Jovairia had thought to herself. She was mentally prepared for it. She kept in touch with a few friends throughout while some automatically started distancing themselves from her and by that point she didn’t care much anymore.
“Some people would make up excuses like, oh my doctor said not to come close to you because you had some radiation and I have kids. You would hear the most random of excuses.”
While Jovairia didn’t join any support group during her treatment, she feels like she should have. There were times she completely shut down and kept to herself as she felt like no one could understand what she was going through since they were not experiencing the same thing. She stresses on the importance of talking to someone and finding a group that has been through similar circumstances as they are completely able to understand you and know all that’s happening with you.
Talking about support, Jovairia was blessed to have a strong support system. Her father flew to Canada from Ethiopia and stayed with her for the duration of her chemotherapy that lasted six months. Her brothers stayed by her side throughout along with her friends who Jovairia is extremely grateful for.
“I remember when I had my surgery, a group of my friends actually came to the hospital and they got balloons saying I had done a good job and I’m a warrior. They had custom made balloons for me. They all know that I love balloons.”
Jovairia completed five years of remission this year in January after a surgery and six rounds of high dosage chemotherapy and hormone therapy. Three years ago, Jovairia made the decision to move back to Pakistan as her journey with Cancer made her realize life really is too short. Moving back to Pakistan, Jovairia wanted to open up a Café. Even though a Café didn’t happen, she started a restaurant ‘Tahli Thallay’ with her husband and uncle that she’s really happy with. “I’m content with my life right now,” says Jovairia.
“Everyone always asks me why I moved to Pakistan? What's wrong with me? And I tell them it’s because I want to enjoy this part of the world too. There are so many things living in Dubai and Canada, I never got to see. I'm living my life.”
Before wrapping up the interview, we asked Jovairia if there is any advice that she would give to others who are currently facing a breast cancer diagnosis or are in the midst of their treatment.
“I think one of the most important one is get to sleep. Sleep. Because I know it's very, very difficult while you're going through chemo because the medication is so strong. You don't get to sleep. Your body is tired, but your mind doesn't shut up. So find some sort of way to relax yourself, to meditate and get some sleep. And the most important thing, which I would say is let it all out. Like all the frustration, all the anger, all the disappointment, whatever you're going through in your mind or whatever you're feeling, just let it out. And the last thing, what I would say is while you're going through the treatment and after the treatment, dress up. Don't just be sad and sit in the corner of your room and think that life is over. Wear colorful clothes. Do your hair, do your makeup. Get your nails done. Just... enjoy life afterwards.”