Algeria breast cancer survivors shunned as ‘half-women’

This file photo shows Linda, an Algerian mother-of-three who was abandoned by her husband after being diagnosed with breast cancer, sitting in Algiers on Nov. 15, 2017. (AFP)
Updated 02 January 2018
0

Algeria breast cancer survivors shunned as ‘half-women’

ALGIERS: As if losing a breast to cancer was not traumatic enough, Algerian mother-of-three Linda was then spurned by her husband for being “mutilated” and a “half-woman.”
“Cancer? It’s nothing compared with being rejected after 18 years of marriage,” the 50-year-old medical assistant said, still clearly upset years later.
Linda is one of hundreds of Algerian women to have been abandoned by their husbands or fiances after being diagnosed with breast cancer, a charity says.
Thousands of women are found to suffer from the disease every year in Algeria, leaving many with no option but to surgically remove a part of their body deeply associated with their feminity.
Hayat says her fiance dumped her after she told him she had an emergency operation to remove a breast.
“He told me: ‘I want a whole woman, not three-quarters of one’,” the 30-year-old student said, bursting into tears.
Samia Gasmi, the head of a cancer charity, says many women are dropped by their husbands just after they are diagnosed, leaving them alone to face drastic treatment — and sometimes even without a roof over their heads.
“Some sink into depression,” said the head of Nur Doha, which means “Light of Day” in Arabic.
“Others end up in shelters because they have nowhere else to go once their husbands abandon them.”
In a country where breast cancer is viewed as a private matter, patients are often reluctant to speak up — even sometimes hiding it from their own family.
“These women view their illness as shameful,” Gasmi said.
One woman refused to tell her own sister, she said, while another started wearing the Islamic scarf before chemotherapy so her husband’s family would have no idea when her hair started falling out.
One patient “chose to die with her two breasts rather than accept any removal.”
All women interviewed by AFP refused to appear in front of a camera and refused to give their second names.
Sociologist Yamina Rahou says this feeling of shame comes from the “pain of having a body part that symbolizes feminity amputated.”
Patients who have had a breast removed feel they no longer fulfil the role society demands of a woman, the researcher at the Social and Cultural Anthropology Research Center in Oran said.
Theologian Kamel Chekkat, of the Algerian Clerics Association, insisted men rejecting their wives after they have a breast removed is un-Islamic.
“It has nothing to do with religion, it’s education,” he said.
Islam “urges spouses to support each other,” he said, and an honorable man should look after his wife.
But not all men follow the code of conduct.
Saida, a doctor who is now 55, says she met her husband at university.
We “married for love. He even took part in protests for women’s rights,” she said.
But when she had a breast removed to fight cancer, he sought a divorce and custody of their son even before she had been released from hospital.
To add insult to injury, she said, he cleaned out her bank account.
“I hit rock bottom,” Saida said. “I didn’t have the energy to fight everything” at once.
Between 9,000 and 10,000 cases of breast cancer are diagnosed a year in Algeria, according to Farid Cherbal, a professor and expert in cancer genetics at the University of Algiers.
That is five times more than 20 years ago, which experts say is due to better means of detection, as well as lifestyle changes such as less physical activity, unhealthy diets and smoking.
Around 3,500 Algerian women die of the disease a year, Cherbal says.
Leila Houti, an epidemiologist and lecturer at the University of Oran’s medicine faculty, said breast cancer was often diagnosed too late.
Among the survivors who have become single, some despair of ever finding a life partner again.
“Who will want a woman like me?” asked Safia, a 32-year-old who has lost 10 kilogrammes (1.5 stone) in a year due to chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
But life is beginning to improve for others.
Saida, the doctor, won custody of her son.
Five years after her operation, Hayat, the student, is healing after therapy, breast reconstruction abroad and the support of friends and family.
And Linda, shunned by her husband for being a “half-woman,” is in remission and doing well with her children’s support.
With hindsight, she said, cancer actually freed her of a man who beat her and stole her salary.


France gives World Cup winners a heroes’ welcome home

Updated 16 min 29 sec ago
0

France gives World Cup winners a heroes’ welcome home

  • Commentators have focused on the outpouring of patriotism and sense of national unity created by the multi-ethnic French team
  • Some analysts believe the 40-year-old centrist Macron will benefit from the feelgood factor sweeping France

PARIS: The World Cup-winning French team returned home to a heroes’ welcome on Monday, parading down the Champs-Elysees as hundreds of thousands of cheering fans gave a raucous welcome to the country’s newest idols.
France overcame a determined Croatia to win 4-2 in Sunday’s final in Russia, with teenager Kylian Mbappe applying the coup de grace and cementing his place as a new global superstar at the age of just 19.
Millions of fans in France then celebrated into the night, honking car horns and flying the tricolor flag while the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe were lit up in the national colors of blue, white and red.
Crowds began converging early Monday on the Champs-Elysees, the gathering point for all national celebrations, to catch a glimpse of a returning squad which has captured the country’s imagination.
“We’re so proud of this team, they have truly become our players,” said Priscilla Lagneaux, 28, as she waited under a wilting sun on the avenue. “We had to see them.”
As the celebrating players descended on an open-air bus under heavy police guard — some of the 2,000 officers deployed in the capital — nine jets from the Patrouille de France, the air force’s acrobatic unit, did an honorary flyover trailing blue, white and red smoke.
Commentators have focused on the outpouring of patriotism and sense of national unity created by the multi-ethnic French team, many of whose stars including Mbappe and Paul Pogba hail from deprived and often overlooked suburbs of Paris.
Laurent Joffrin, editor of the leftwing Liberation newspaper, said they had lived up to the ideal of “the republic that we love: united and diverse, patriotic and open, national without being nationalist.”
After leaving the Champs-Elysees, the players quickly changed into custom-made blue suits before being welcomed at the Elysee Palace by President Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte, who were also decked out in blue for the occasion.
Macron has already promised the Legion of Honour for the victors’ “exceptional services” to the country, an award already given to the legendary team which won France’s first World Cup title in 1998.
The first couple then posed with the team as they sang the Marseillaise national anthem and waved scarves for a joyous group photo, before heading inside for a private meeting.
“Thanks to you all!” Macron told the team after gathering again outside. “This team is beautiful because you are united!“
Despite a voice nearly failing him, Pogba then proved himself a showman off the field as well as on by leading the guests in an impromptu celebratory rap punctuated by “Allez les Bleus!“
“It’s true, we went on the pitch, and we said, We’re going to crush them all!” he said.
Nearly 3,000 guests have been invited to the reception in the Elysee gardens, including around 1,000 youths from local football clubs such as Bondy, the gritty Paris suburb whose towering housing projects produced Mbappe.
“We’re going to say thank you!” said Sacha, one of the young players at the palace. “I don’t regret not going on vacation this summer.”
Afterwards guests will be treated to the beats of DJ Snake, who has worked with pop stars including Lady Gaga and is part of the Pardon My French collective of French DJs.
Macron had already celebrated with the team on Sunday — even doing “dab” dance moves with players in a video that has gone viral — after attending the final in Moscow.
Some analysts believe the 40-year-old centrist will benefit from the feelgood factor sweeping France, with Macron able to show a common touch after months of criticism from his opponents that he is distant and elitist.
Later the team will attend a dinner in their honor at the posh Hotel du Crillon.
In Paris, the metro system has temporarily renamed six of its stations in honor of the key players, with the Victor Hugo stop — named after the famed 19th-century writer — becoming Victor Hugo Lloris after the team’s goalkeeper.
Two stations were rebaptised in tribute to Deschamps, who captained the national side to its first World Cup victory, won on home soil in 1998.
“There are two things that matter — one is that these 23 players are now together for life, whatever happens, and also that from now on they will not be the same again, because they are world champions,” a champagne-soaked Deschamps said Sunday.
Macron will be relieved that joyous and occasionally chaotic celebrations across France on Sunday night passed off without any major incident following a string of terror attacks in France since 2015 that have claimed nearly 250 lives.
There were 292 people arrested nationwide and isolated clashes between police and rowdy crowds in Paris, Lyon and Marseille.
For Croatia, a country of just four million people, the loss was bitter but their fans took solace in the best run in the nation’s history, which featured a stunning win against Argentina and a semifinal victory against England.
“Thank you, heroes! — You gave us everything!” read the Sportske Novosti front page. “’Vatreni’ (the “Fiery Ones” in Croatian), you are the biggest, you are our pride, your names will remain written in gold forever!” the newspaper said.