7 life lessons from breast cancer survivor, Umaima Tinwala

Breast cancer survivor and dear friend, Umaima agreed to write this piece for me. She stands for breast cancer awareness and inspires millions with her story of survival. The following article was part of her speech at Dubai’s Zulekha hospital in Ford Motor Company event #PinkItNow on breast cancer. Read on to know what she has to say, #DilSe.

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I am a breast cancer survivor.
Feels really good to say that.

My name is Umaima Tinwala. I am 38 years old, Indian, and have lived in the UAE for 14 years. While I am keen to share my story, what I would like to do instead, is share what I have learnt through this journey. Please bear with me if I sound preachy at times, but it comes with the territory. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to share my story, in the hope that it helps someone in some way.

I lost my mother to cancer in 2011. In 2014, I was detected with breast cancer.

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Umaima Tinwala: Crusader for Breast Cancer Awareness (October 2016)

Please get yourself checked.
I first felt a lump in my left breast in November 2013, just a little after my birthday. I was scared, really scared, as I had lost my mother to cancer just over a year before that. The lump kept coming and going, and even though a voice inside my head kept telling me it was something, I was too scared to face it.

Which brings me to my second lesson. Don’t be scared.
Of course, cancer is scary! But the more you delay finding it, the worse it will get. Catch it early on and you can beat it senseless.
My father, who never for a moment left my mother’s side for the ten years she fought cancer, had told me that it is not cancer but the treatment that kills you. Chemotherapy is horrendous. It destroys your body and mind. You live, but so much of you just dies that you will barely recognise yourself.

So here comes lesson no 3. Try to see the positive side.
I was a workaholic. Cancer forced me to slow down. It has made me more patient. Today I am calmer. I actually let drivers cut in front of me without swearing at them now! I value the time I have with the people around me. I have the greatest relationship with my daughter, who is the embodiment of my will to live, here with us today.

 

 

Breast cancer survivor Umaima Tinwala
My daughter Naqiyah, my lifeline…

 

 

Lesson no 4. Find your motivation.
It could come from anywhere. Your family, kids, even work. Find that one thing to keep you going. Naqiyah encouraged me every day to fight, be better. I couldn’t put my father and my sister through the tragedy of losing another family member to cancer. So I fought.

I couldn’t put my father and my sister through the tragedy of losing another family member to cancer. So I fought.

 

Lesson no 5. Find what makes you strong.
You will hear many stories. But what worked for me, may not work for you. Find your own strength. I found mine, for example, in my baldness. I work in the media. So I was out at events, fashion shows, red carpets, etc, flaunting my bald head. Yes, I got stared at, made fun of at times, but it made me proud. Because to me, in the larger scheme of things, my bald head meant nothing. I felt strong like I was laying claim on my struggle with the illness.

In the larger scheme of things, my bald head meant nothing.

Lesson no 6. It’s ok to not be strong, all the time.
We are strong, independent women. But that does not mean that we have to fight all our battles alone. It’s ok to be weak. It’s ok to ask for help. My cousins and sisters in law started a WhatsApp group to co-ordinate timings so I would never be alone in the hospital. My friends drove me around, cooked for me, ran marathons for me, fasted for me. My father was constantly talking to the doctors and monitoring my medication, my sister was managing my house and my daughter. How can I possibly take all the credit for getting through this? People call me strong, but I am strong only because of all the hands that were, and are, holding me up. Reach out, and you will be surprised at how many hands reach back.

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People call me strong, but I am strong only because of all the hands that were, and are, holding me up. Reach out, and you will be surprised at
how many hands reach back.

 

 

Lesson no 7. Acceptance.
Cancer changes you. It changes your body and your mind. I have decalcified bones, mood swings, blurred vision, muscle pain, etc. But it’s what I call the new normal. Dealing with whatever aches and pains I wake up with is part of my routine now. And if I keep my mind positive about it, I find it helps me deal with it better.

I have decalcified bones, mood swings, blurred vision, muscle pain, etc. But it’s what I call the new normal.

And finally, as clichéd as it sounds, life is beautiful.
13887117_10153662102151631_6670741033185207172_nCancer has removed all the toxicity from my life, people and habits alike. It has also brought in a lot of joy, as I realised how many people liked me and thought of me when they reached out to help. I am thankful to the amazing supportive people from Zulekha Hospital and from Ford Middle East.

So the moral of the story is, take control of your life, and please get yourself checked. Today.

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Reach out to Umaima on Twitter: https://twitter.com/utinwala

Did this post touch your heart? Do share your thoughts in the comments section. I will be conveying them the Umaima. Please remember to share the story if you liked it. 

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Mayura’s two bit:
I know Umaima for the last 23 years. We were batch-mates at college. I have seen Umaima blossom from a teenager to a respected journalist with the Indian Express Newspapers. She later moved to the UAE and established herself as a renowned journalist with some of the best media houses. She has brought up her daughter Naqiyah in the most beautiful manner. Today, her 11-year-old is her best friend and confidante. She makes movies and takes care of her mum the same way her mum takes care of her.
The news of Umaima’s breast cancer was heart-breaking. The distance between UAE and Mumbai disallowed me to reach out to her. She has always been in my prayers and watching her rise as a winner gives me so much happiness. Today, I am proud to say that I am Umaima Tinwala’s friend.

A few years ago, my beloved mother-in-law was detected with breast cancer. We have seen her transform physically, mentally and emotionally. She fought back for the sake of her family. Today, 11 years later, she is not only independent but my guiding light and refuge. It is weird when people ask me, is she your mother or Amarkant’s mum? People just cannot make out!! My mother-in-law echoes each one of the lessons that Umaima has shared above and sends her blessings too.

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This is my Day 8 post for Ultimate Blogging Challenge  #DailyChatter through the amazing @BlogChatter community of bloggers.

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This is the 8th post in the #DilSe series. Here are the rest:

  1. #DilSe: Celebrating Womanhood…the VIBHA SINGH way…
  2. #DilSe: The LIKE trap…

  3. #DilSe: 5 things I do every morning.

  4. #DilSe: We won the best award in the whole world!

  5. #DilSe: Aunty mat kaho na…

  6. #DilSe: From one dreamer to another…

  7. #Dil Se: Marathi nostalgia with a contemporary twist
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9 comments

  1. Umaima is a wonderful woman and inspiring. I can’t imagine what cancer afflicted people go through and one must be a fighter till the end to battle the disease. She is full of positivity. Great of you Mayura to bring such inspiring stories and you are touching lives, I am sure.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. In Arnold Schwarzenegger’s words… “Strength does not come from winning. Your struggles develop your strengths. When you go through hardships and decide not to surrender, that is strength.”
    It takes a lot to fight your innerself Umaima and you have done it…. some may call you a “Survivor” but to me you are a “WINNER”.

    Great work Mayura, From #DilSe to Direct Dil Pe… you are doing an excellent job…!!!

    Like

  3. Looking death in the eyes changes things like nothing else does.
    We ate all born with the same amount of time..A lifetime !Whether you make a difference or not will always be your choice.
    Empowering story.God bless Umaima and her family.God bless your family to Mayura for giving us heartwarming stories of real people

    Liked by 1 person

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