Suraya is a beautiful and shy 21-year-old cancer survivor whom I had the pleasure of meeting at the youth summer camp organized by LSN-JO. I never imagined that three weeks later I would be sitting in Suraya’s parents’ living room with her, her mother, Shireen (Suraya’s LSN social worker), Ahmed (Network Partnership Manager from LSN (Survivor Corps) headquarters in DC), and Majdi (Suraya’s Outreach Worker). Ahmed was here for three weeks assisting LSN-JO with the localization process, and he wanted to visit some survivors in order to gauge their involvement with the organization.
Suraya got cancer when she was 14 years old. She was taken out of school, provided with chemotherapy treatments, which resulted in the loss of her hair, and eventually had to have her right arm amputated. As if all of this was not hard enough, Suraya has an identical twin sister, whose health made her daily struggle with bitterness, anger, and sorrow even more challenging.
Fortunately, Suraya is blessed with a loving and supportive family, as well as with the assistance and support of LSN-JO. Both Suraya and her mother explained how Suraya’s involvement with LSN-JO has helped her to become more confident in herself and to overcome the negative feelings she had during those difficult years. In this sense, Suraya exemplifies what is known as “post-traumatic growth” – in essence, a beautiful paradox in which trauma survivors mature and develop in positive and meaningful ways despite the tragedy they have experienced.
With the support of LSN-JO, Suraya has triumphed over numerous adversities, not least of which is the conquering of those negative thoughts and feelings. Another major achievement has been the slow, yet continual breaking down of the gender barrier. Suraya comes from a traditional Muslim family, and she and her sisters are not allowed to engage in certain activities outside of the house, such as working, without their father’s permission. However, because of the work that LSN-JO has done with Suraya and her family, her father has come to trust the organization and allows Suraya to participate in LSN-JO activities and events on a regular basis, even those that would place her in the company of members of the opposite sex. The summer camp four weeks ago is a prime example; even Suraya’s 16-year-old sister was permitted to attend the camp. A second example is Suraya’s involvement in a cancer survivor group that meets on a monthly basis to discuss their experiences, feelings, difficulties, and successes. During our visit, Suraya expressed how much she enjoyed the cancer survivor group and how she was proud to be able to help others throughout their recovery process. Participating in these and other activities has enabled Suraya to grow not only as a cancer survivor, but also as a strong, beautiful young woman in a strict, male-dominated society. While she may not be completely convinced that she is a “super survivor,” there is absolutely no doubt in my mind.
Posted By Krystal Sirman
Posted Aug 4th, 2008