HNH Spotlight With Breast Cancer Survivor And Talented Writer Asma Nabeel
Team HNH Style sits down for a candid interview with the supremely talented Asma Nabeel As She Shares Her Struggle With Cancer (Interviewer: Maliha Hasan; Author: Faisal Rahat)
The breast cancer awareness drive is in full swing across Pakistan, and the world at large. Breast Cancer Awareness Month (PINKtober) is an annual international health campaign organized by major breast cancer charities every October to increase awareness of the disease and to raise funds for research into its cause, prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and cure. The campaign also offers information and support to those affected by breast cancer.
As part of HNH Style's resolve to educate its readers about PINKtober, and to bring the breast cancer awareness campaign to the forefront right throughout the month of October, team HNH sat down for a candid interview with the famous writer, Asma Nabeel, as she shared her struggle with breast cancer and her ultimate triumph over it.
Breast cancer awareness campaign intends to educate people about the importance of early screening, tests, and more. This campaign starts on October 1 and ends on October 31 every year. Pakistan is, unfortunately, one of the worst affected as the country has the highest incidence of Breast Cancer in Asia. An estimate of 1 in 10 women may develop Breast Cancer in their lifetime.
Asma Nabeel is a cancer warrior who has given Pakistanis a lot of reasons to be entertained through the magic of her pen. She has given us the soul-shattering drama serial Khuda Mera Bhi Hai, the blockbuster Khaani, and a story of an acid attack victim in Surkh Chandni, among others.
We began the interview by asking Asma how she felt when she was first diagnosed with breast cancer and what kind of support system she had back then, to which the supremely talented writer replied that she had a flight that day and that she was going to Dubai for some work. Her husband, mother, and family all came over, and then the report arrived. Everyone was worried and upset and they wanted Asma to cancel the flight but she went through with it. She said:
"Up until that morning, I was fine and I was working. When I got back from Dubai, all my appointments were lined up and then I took immediate action and that was the best thing that I did. I did not hinder the process because that is very important with cancer treatment."
"That is what's happening with the second round as well. Cancer is killed with courage and motivation as cancer, I feel feeds on depression."
Asma Nabeel stayed cancer-free for seven years and is undergoing treatment again. This time, the lump is on the same side but not in the breast. The treatment has become advanced so this time, she is on chemo tablets. She revealed that she is even more courageous and ready to take it on this time around and we have absolutely no doubt that the cancer warrior would once again come out on top.
We asked Asma how she found the treatment facilities here and are there any loopholes that she thinks need improving, to which the writer replied that she feels very thankful and lucky with whatever that has happened with her during her cancer treatment. She said:
"Not a lot of people are aware the Shaukat Khanum exists in Karachi as well. My first time - I was clueless and that I believe is one of the issues. When you are first diagnosed, you don't know if you have to go to a gynecologist, breast surgeon, or oncologist. You don't know which hospitals are the ones that treat this. Seven years ago, the scenario was very different than today, as there are many other females like me who are out there, spreading awareness."
Asma continued that she found out about Shaukat Khanum and went there. She expressed that their treatment systems are different and praiseworthy. She added:
"I received support and love from the people treating me, especially my surgeon, Dr. Rufina Soomro. She handled with so much care and always says that I am a lovely patient because as a woman, she believes that I am very courageous. So from that time, Shaukat Khanum has been my second family."
Asma revealed that she has never had any complaints against Shaukat Khanum but her experience with other places has not been the same. She said:
"When you are a patient, there are many apprehensions and uncertainties that you constantly face. For example, when you talk to a patient who has to get a biopsy done, the patient doesn't know what's going to happen, so the empathy of a doctor is very important and I think our overall system lacks that. Another thing that needs improvement is guidance. You shouldn't misguide people. I went to a renowned hospital for my PET scan. My husband was there with me. We were told to collect the reports from another part of the hospital. When he reached there, he was told that he had to go back where he initially came from and that the reports are there."
Asma added that there are other loopholes as well as we don't have enough resources for the actual number of patients out there.
"There is a need for reforms and that is what I intend to do if God gives me life. Breast cancer in Pakistan is the no. 1 cancer. In Asia, we are no. 1 in breast cancer but in the health sector, we are still struggling with issues like saving lives at childbirth and polio eradication. So we need to work on this as well. We don't have a National Cancer Registry in Pakistan and it is so important to have that. This is why I believe the private sector can bring a lot of improvement."
Asma expressed that there are different groups working on this and they were able to get a resolution passed in KPK regarding the Breast Cancer Control Policy and Protection Plan and if it's implemented, it will be a big step as it involves knowing how many patients are there, how many machines and types of equipment are needed, so it would be a step forward in the right direction and other provinces should also follow suit.
Asma Nabeel revealed that she is also working on a film to create breast cancer awareness and plans to show it not just in cinemas in urban areas, but also to take it on wheels and showcase it in rural areas to create and increase awareness regarding breast cancer.
Team HNH Style ended the spotlight interview by asking Asma Nabeel for a video message to everyone who currently is and those who are at risk of being potential breast cancer patients, to which she sent a very realistic and comforting message.