Saudi breast cancer survivor: A story of hope and faith

Saudi breast cancer fighter and survivor Reham Afandi is a 33-year-old mother of two children, and a Zumba coach, based in Jeddah. (AN Photo by Huda Bashatah)
Updated 12 October 2017
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Saudi breast cancer survivor: A story of hope and faith

JEDDAH: A woman’s power lies in her hope, love, faith and gratitude for life. Women are always stronger than their tears and skin. But when it comes to facing cancer, a woman can choose to be a real fighter or a weak soldier in life.
Rubaiyat participated in Breast Cancer Awareness Month by hosting “Pink Week” in Jeddah from October 3-7.
Pink Week is five days of pink-themed activities that included motivational speakers. In collaboration with Zahra Association, Rubaiyat department store offered a quiz on breast cancer.
On October 5, the third day of the organized activities Rubaiyat hosted a Saudi breast cancer fighter and survivor Reham Afandi, who gave a motivational speech and told her story to the audience. She brightened the stage with her nonstop smiling face.
Reham Afandi is a 33-year-old mother of two children, and a Zumba coach, based in Jeddah, who was one day a normal healthy mom, and then: “I was sleeping and all of a sudden I felt a solid ball in my breast. It was unusual, I started to worry after I asked my husband to check if he thought it felt odd as well,” Afandi said.
Afandi went to the doctor, and “after I had the test, I had to wait for the result— one week of nightmares. The day I learned that I was a breast cancer victim was a shock. I am still so young, I didn’t want to die— my kids! I can’t leave them like this and go. What about my work and husband?”
Afandi was strong, so she dealt with the disease as a challenge where she decided she could either be a loser or a winner.
Hope and patience
“When I started to receive my chemotherapy, I started to feel the pain running in my veins; I was so worried about losing my hair,” Afandi said.
Dealing with such a serious issue intelligently and bravely is one way to get over it, and this is what Reham did.
“I used to have very long and healthy hair; I went to the salon to choose a nice short style that I could wear during my normal days, but I was not courageous enough to cut my hair.”
Reham cleverly convinced her kids that she had a kind of virus called breast cancer that would make her look “ugly for a while.”
The laughs of her kids made it much easier to accept the hair loss. “When my hair started to fall out, I could not bear it. I decided to shave it all off, and with the help of my husband, we choose to make it a joke among ourselves in order for the kids to accept the matter.”
“Sitting alone in a small room for more than six hours, receiving the painful treatment was the hardest part,” but Afandi stressed that “the room was never empty” because of the moral support she received from her family and friends.
“After my first breast was removed, for the sake of healing, I changed.”
Afandi became more ambitious to live with new goals and love for those who showed how much they cared for her.
“After the doctor told me that I was healing, I felt the power of hope and I realized the meaning and blessing of being a normal healthy person.”
After her inspiring speech, Afandi bravely answered the audience’s questions. Her story was so touching and her struggle was real because she wanted to continue living with hope and keep up the spirit of believing in the goodness of life.
After listening to reactions from the audience regarding Reham’s story, a writer at Al-Hayat newspaper, Bascal Abu Abdulla, told Arab News: “Seeing Reham shining on stage with a smile, you realize that among the audience there were women in full health who can’t even draw a smile on their faces. This tells us that cancer is not only a physical disease but also a psychological one. So, if you have faith and hope just like Reham, you deserve applause.”
Afandi told Arab News: “The power of healing lies in hope and positivity.”


Saudi Arabia lifts ban on women driving

Updated 24 June 2018
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Saudi Arabia lifts ban on women driving

  • They start their engines and hit the roads throughout the Kingdom
  • End of driving ban is crowning achievement so far of Saudi Vision 2030

Women throughout Saudi Arabia waited for the stroke of midnight, turned the keys in the ignition, fired up their engines — and hit the road to a bright new future.

It was the moment they had waited for since King Salman issued the royal decree on September 26, 2017, to lift the driving ban on women. 

Just after midnight on Saturday and in the first minutes of Sunday, Samah Algosaibi grabbed the keys to her family’s 1959 Corvette C1 and drove out of the driveway of her beach house in Khobar.
“We are witnessing history in the making as we look toward the dawn of a promising future,” said Algosaibi, the first female board member of Ahmad Hamad Algosaibi & Bros.

“As a businesswoman in Saudi Arabia, I am grateful for the women’s empowerment movement taking place. Today, I am honored to be sitting behind the wheel of change.”

Another woman to hit the road after midnight was Lina Almaeena, a member of the Saudi Shoura Council. “It feels very liberating,” she said about driving her mother’s Lexus.
Almaeena, also the co-founder and director of Jeddah United Sports Co, had exchanged her UAE license for a Saudi one. 

“I am thrilled!” Sarah Alwassia, 35, a nutritionist in Jeddah, told Arab News. “I learnt how to drive 18 years ago in the States where I got my driving license. I can’t believe that the day to drive in my own home town has come.”

Alwassia obtained her first American license when she was 18 years old in 2000, and had it exchanged for a Saudi license on June 6 in Jeddah. She explained that she is a mother, and this change provided comfort for her and her family. It also comes with various benefits, such as taking quick action in emergencies, and economic benefits such as saving money instead of paying for a driver when she needs to run errands. 

“I will be driving my kids to school and picking them up in comfort and privacy,” she said.

Women in the Kingdom commented on how this event is changing the course of their lives. “Independence is a huge thing for me,” Alwassia said. “Driving is one small part of it. I am very optimistic of the change that our loving country has made.”  

Alwassia applauds the efforts the country has made to support women. “I am confident that driving in the beginning will be pleasant, since our country has made all of the effort to support women and to protect them.
“I think our society was looking forward for this change, and I am sure the majority will adapt fast.

“I feel safe, our country did everything to make this transition pleasant and safe for every woman behind the wheel. I am really thankful to witness this historic moment and I am so happy for all the women in Saudi Arabia, especially my daughters.”
Sahar Nasief, 64, a retired lecturer from the European languages and Literature Department at King Abdulaziz University, said: “Nothing could describe my feelings. I can't wait to get on the road.”
Nasief received a very special gift from Ford for this occasion.

“They gave me a 2018 Expedition to drive for three days, a Mustang California Special,” she told Arab News.

Nasief obtained her Saudi license on June 7. She also holds a British license and two American licenses. “Now, I have my national license too,” she said. 

She also said the lifting of the ban provided a sense of relief. “I feel that I can practice one of my rights, and I don't have to live at the mercy of my driver any more.”
Society has been demanding such a change for years, “as it will take the physical and economic burden off most men.”
Pointing to the anti-harassment law, Nasief said: “I feel very confident especially after announcing the strict harassment law.”
Joumana Mattar, 36, a Jordanian interior designer, exchanged her Jordanian driver’s license and obtained a Saudi one on June 11. 

“I had my Jordanian license since I was 18 years old, and the moment I heard about the opening of exchanging foreign licenses, I immediately booked an appointment,” she said.
Mattar said she looks forward to the change in so many ways. “I'm finally in control of my time, schedule and privacy.” 

Mattar said she is both confident and anxious about the event. “I'm anxious only for feeling that I'm part of a huge first step for women driving in the Kingdom, but I'm confident also because of the support that I'm getting from my husband and family.
“Every first step is the hardest. Society is facing a huge change, but I'm positive because this change is done and supported by the government and Vision 2030.”

Mattar said she feels secure now. “I'm in control of any case I'm facing.”

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