“Everything in the world can be overcome, war, poverty, displacement, we are strong enough to face many difficulties. But when your own body is not well, it causes many doubts and fears.”
“The only thing I can really say to myself and other women who experience illnesses (cancer) like mine is be strong. You have to be strong, internally and externally. You have to be mighty to withstand the ups and downs of life.”
My name is Inaya, I am a 34-year-old, living in Khalde, a coastal town south of Beirut, Lebanon, with my husband and eight children. I have been living in Lebanon for 12 years. I am originally from Syria, and my family and I fled just as the war started. About 14 years ago, I was diagnosed with cancer and started my treatment in Syria, undergoing surgery and continuing with chemotherapy for years after.
My disease took many things from me, it took away my wholeness as a person and my peace of mind. I would constantly think about my children’s well-being. How are my illness and treatment affecting them? What would happen to them if I passed? I was constantly afraid of what the future might hold, will it come back? Will I need more surgeries?
I would see myself as an incomplete person, especially when my hair had fallen out. I would think about how my husband saw me and wonder if I had become a burden. Thankfully, my husband was a great support for me during that period, he was the only person who could give me the containment I needed to continue.
Everything in the world can be overcome, war, poverty, and displacement, we are strong enough to face many difficulties. But when your own body is not well, it causes many doubts and fears.
Between the frustrations of being a refugee, my children’s needs, and the endless chaos of Lebanon, I cannot honestly say that I want to confide or express these issues to my husband or friends because they have their own issues to deal with.
“Between the frustrations of being a refugee, my children’s needs, and the endless chaos of Lebanon, I cannot honestly say that I want to confide or express these issues to my husband or friends because they have their own issues to deal with.”
In late 2022, I heard about the drama therapy programme offered by Intisar Foundation from Anamel. I thought to myself, “I need something like this, I might find myself in a place like this.” From the first day, I felt like these sessions were a place to decompress, laugh, listen to others, move, and talk in my own comfort.
The things I was holding back in my heart, I was finally able to talk about in the sessions. Even if others would hear me or judge me, I felt safe talking about things I had never discussed outside the sessions. The exercises that we would do proved to me that I am a person who is not bound by restrictions. I felt like I finally understood my right to talk, raise my voice, and express my opinions. I felt like I had the freedom, but I also understood that this freedom extends outside the sessions.
The facilitator would make us understand certain truths about ourselves without us being pushed to any conclusions. I started to realise things about myself through the sessions, like the fact that it is so easy for me to feel defeated when I face difficulties. I started to confront my fears of the unknown and the future. Realising that I have control over the present, I have control over myself right here and now. Why did I allow my worries about what has not happened yet to control me? I cannot always change the circumstances, but I also will not allow the circumstances to change me. I am myself and I have my determination.
I would endure the week waiting for the session to come. I would finish all my pending tasks to be sure that I am free and available on the day of the session, especially to make sure my husband does not get bothered. I felt like the sessions gave us each our own individual space and time to explore and grow. We had to also acknowledge that and put in our own efforts to change for the better.
During one of the sessions, there were exercises that I would have never thought I would do, such as certain movements and dances. I felt like I could never let myself do such things, especially in front of other people. But as the programme progressed, I let go of these restrictions of myself and found myself doing more and more things that I never thought I would do. I felt like I was freer to explore new areas of my life that I had convinced myself I could not do.
I even used some of the exercises at home with my children, like the “10 years in the future” meditation. I found that my children were curious about the things I learned, so I was happy to share the exercises and new knowledge with them. If I am benefiting from the sessions, then I have to pass the benefit on to others.
The only thing I can really say to myself and other women who experience illnesses like mine is to be strong. You have to be strong, internally and externally. You have to be mighty to withstand the ups and downs of life.