health


Last month I was asked to do an iReport for CNN about Breast Cancer Awareness. And as I was thinking about what to say it was clear to me that I also had to write and tell my story in a little bit more than 60 seconds! Breast cancer and cancer in general is not a new or strange concept in our worlds. However if you are anything like me, its something that is in the darkest corner of my mind. I know its there I just pretend not to hear its voice saying “Shalabieh, you need to get checked, for your sake just make sure everything is OK and you are healthy.” I ignore the voice because I feel great, I feel fine but cancer doesn’t work like that.

Jordan Breast Cancer Program

Jordan Breast Cancer Program

Last year the voice got out of my head and when into the real world. I first heard about it on the radio, in a cab heading to the office. Then I saw a massive billboard, and flyers everywhere. It was a national campaign in full force: The Jordan Breast Cancer Program was launched. And it was only a matter of time before I responded to all those ads. I called the support line and learned about free breast exams, subsidized mammograms and where I can get them and how much they were and who the participating doctors are and where their clinics are located. I talked to my colleagues about it and my friends. We all knew the importance of getting checked, but we all managed to somehow put it off.

Our breasts, no matter how prominent they are, are often ignored- especially when it comes to their health. But after ignoring the health of my breasts for a long while (20 years of carrying these babies around), I FINALLY went to my gynecologist and asked her to teach me how to do a self breast exam. It was awkward and strange having my doctor play with my boobs, coz that’s what it felt like. But buy the end of those 10 minutes I was cleared and I had gotten a tutorial! I can now do the exams myself and I get an excuse to play with boobs (not that one needs an excuse)! But on a more serious note I got some very good advice which included:
• The self breast exam should be done monthly
• The best time to do it is after a period
• It is best to do the exam standing up in front of a mirror. But If you have large breasts then you may want to do it lying down
• If you have a fast paced life and no time then you can check your breasts when you are in shower and soaping up
I won’t go into how to do the actual exam as I am not qualified to do so, but I will say this: it’s easy, it’s fast and it can save your life.

My aunt was diagnosed with breast cancer and she is a survivor, she was lucky she caught it early and is recovering nicely. You can be lucky too, but you will never know unless you go that first time and learn about this disease, and learn how to catch it in its tracks. Don’t ignore your breasts, go play with your boobs and if you need advice then check the The Jordan Breast Cancer Program’s Website for more information. Be healthy, be safe and spread the word you may save someone else’s life too.

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So I’ve been traveling for about four months now, right after the swine flu scare started in fact, and throughout my travels I have been to four continents, nine countries, nine airports, eight land borders/ terminals. Yes it’s been fun! But as I was traveling I was paying attention to how each airline, airport, government dealt with this scare. After going through these places and seeing how people are reacting its interesting to see how people have quickly forgotten how long the flu has been on earth and plaguing people and how it is contracted in exactly the same way since it reared its ugly head and how the precautions are exactly the same as that of the regular flu. Only difference is the poor pigs have got a bad rep now!

So without naming names or governments here are some the effective ways this virus has been tracked around the world.

The flight attendant announces on the plane that there are heat sensing cameras and medical staff awaiting us to screen us for Swine Flu. “This is for your safety and benefit” she says. So when we get off the plane and are bused to the terminal there is a bottleneck since only two or three of us can pass at a time. There are three persons in white lab coats, hair in those green shower-caps and of course masks on their faces all watching us and watching the monitor ready to pounce if someone goes by with a red aura instead of green. What happens after, I have no idea!

On another airplane we are handed health cards. These cards asked for our personal information, whether we were experiencing any symptoms and if we had been to any of these high risk countries (and it said to consult the list provided)- no list was provided! Upon arrival there was a very bored man waiting for us to collect our cards, and there was an unmanned heat sensing camera trained on us. Once again I passed without being flagged despite having been in high risk countries (I didn’t see the list but somehow I knew I had been in one high risk country at least).

In some countries they scan you as are waiting in line for immigration in others right after. In some countries they give you a card with your temperature on it, which without you can’t pass immigration, but because of the masses of people the system quickly became defunct.  One government requires you to fill out a form on the plane and has the flight attendants collect it for you.

In all land border crossings no one asked or scanned or bothered with the exception of one. They had a Ministry Of Health official come on to the bus (we were a captive audience with nowhere to go until our passports were returned to us). This official gave a five minute public awareness announcement about what the flu is, how it is contracted, how to protect yourself, and what you should do should symptoms arise. It was good solid advice given in under 10 minutes (great for ADD persons) and then a small handout was distributed with the same information and some contact information. The graphics of course included the mandatory pig with a big X over it. One country only cared about its nationals asking them to fill out a small paper – since I am not of that nationality they really didn’t care if I was healthy or not.

Finally there were the countries that upon arrival had a big massive sign about Swine Flu and assumed we were responsible for our own health. Other just didn’t give a damn!
What was amusing to me were the masses of people with masks covering their faces in airports and airplanes, scared of contracting the flu from other passengers. I even know a few people who have stopped any “unnecessary” physical contact with other people including hugs! What I want to say is that this is just another strain of flu, a disease people have been dying from before it was known to humanity. The best things we can do is pay attention to our mom’s age old advice: wash your hands, cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze and throw away your used tissues. Eat healthy, live healthy and now since pigs have flown we can all wait for hell to freeze over its only a matter of time with all this global warming!

Its that time of the year when consumerism is at its best and we all go on these shopping frenzies all over the world. Whether it’s the holidays or the sales is up for debate, but I do know that there is a better way to spend your money than on that unwanted and unneeded pair of reindeer socks.

 

A friend of mine sent me an email a couple of days ago with a great idea (thanks AK). She has asked us all to give ourselves health insurance. Now you may think she works for a health insurance company or is trying to get something out of it but no, that is not the case. She has asked that we all buy a plan from The King Hussein Cancer Center (KHCC).

 

 

 

 

Some of you may be covered through your office health insurance plans or through a parent’s plan, a spouse’s or even your school and so may have no need for more health insurance. But this is a plan with a twist. Buying an insurance plan from the KHCC helps cover you in case of the need for cancer treatment. But that is not what is really cool about this health insurance. The money you pay towards your health insurance actually gets used to cover cancer patients’ medical costs. It helps those that are in need fight this unforgiving and indiscriminant disease.

 

The plans are affordable and go a long way in fighting the battle against cancer. So if you are out shopping, buying gifts, spending money think about buying yourself, or someone dear, a gift that keeps on giving.

 

Here are the options for insurance (valid for a year):

Age                              Paid Amount JD/Year                   Insurance Amount

 

1 day-34 years                        10 JD                                       10,000 JD

                                                23 JD                                       20,000 JD

 

35 years-49 years                   25 JD                                       10,000 JD

                                                58 JD                                       20,000 JD

 

50 years-64 years                   45 JD                                       10,000 JD

                                               104 JD                                     20,000 JD

 

65 years-Above                       70 JD                                       10,000 JD

                                                161 JD                                     20,000 JD       


All you need to do is fill out a form with your national number, date of birth and sign it. Six months after they receive the form the insurance will be activated. You have to pay the insurance amount in full (10-161 JD which ever insurance works for you).

 

For more information contact

 

 

King Hussein Cancer Foundation
P.O. Box 35102
Amman 11180 Jordan
Telephone: + 962 6 4617555
Facsimile: + 962 6 4618999
E-mail:
info.foundation@KHCC.jo

 

I hope you never have to use this insurance but help those who do. Get your insurance now and be a giver to those who need it the most.

I am up in the middle of the night trying to sleep … exhausted and afraid of the big bad cough monster that won’t let me lie down. I have to remain upright to breathe when all I want to do is sleep… sweet dark quiet sleep that is elusive. My eyes, by back, my body all want to rest, my lungs demand that they remain awake, alert and alive. The mini death that comes with sleep is not desired and I in fact fear it. Every time I lay to rest it is a complete state of unrest. And so instead I write … I write long rambles, streams of consciousness that make no sense, because all they desire is a stream of unconsciousness in the form of sleep.

My eyelids are heavy, my muscles, tired, my brain half asleep, and yet the minute I lie flat my lungs protest violently… bringing the rest of my awake and alert. My eyes tear from the exertion, my chest shakes, and my body curls into the fetal position. Get up shout my lungs, torturing the body and mind into submission. Till when this ache, till when this pain?

I long to be healthy. I long for a full night of sleep. I want to die a mini death and be resurrected in a refreshed state in the morning.  I want to take a deep breath and enjoy it. I want to be asleep instead of randomly writing emails and blog posts to pass the crazy time that is 2:45 am.


A few days ago I got an email from a friend. It contained an attachment. It was a poster that was part of an awareness campaign regarding HIV and AIDS. What pleasantly surprised me was that the campaign was from the Ministry of Health. However the poster evoked a lot of different feelings including amusement, surprise, happiness, and disappointment.

The mixed feelings come from different places and different reactions to the poster. First let me say I applaud the Ministry for taking this step. It is a good move towards opening the dialogue about STDs in general and HIV in particular. It has always been a taboo of a topic here. We are like ostriches with our heads in the sand, in denial about the magnitude of the problem that exists in Jordan; about the unsafe sexual practices, about sexual abuse, about STDs and about actual figures. So this is a good step, no, a great step forward

I am dismayed and disappointed in the campaign its self. Visually it leaves a lot to be desired, the poster reads like a brochure, detracting from the message. It would have been more effective to use less text for more impact redirecting people who are interested to brochures, website or the phone line they have.

The actual messages sent are both positive and yet frustrating. I have heard a lot of reactions to this campaign and the reoccurring theme is wow this is great, they will learn, and hmmm they have some misconceptions. My worry is that with misinformation we can do more harm than good. Also there is no advocacy for safe sex practices. In fact they have listed sex as dangerous as a whole, which will not deter people from having sex.

Ministry HIV Campaign

For those that don’t read Arabic the campaign is a series of questions, some highlights from the texts…

  • Do you have any sexual practices?
  • Do you have any “dangerous” sexual practices (girl and girl, guy and guy, guy and girl)?
  • Do you know that VERY beautiful girl may have AIDS?
  • Do you know that STRONG, BEAUTIFUL young man may have AIDS?
  • AIDS tests are private and confidential
  • AIDS testing is free in Jordan
  • There is no “quarantine” or reservations against AIDS patients in Jordan

I have heard that this campaign is using the internet and SMS to spread the word, a great way to target the younger generation. I hope there is a plan for wider reach and more mass media tools and techniques. We need to break through the silence and really have people become more aware of the dangers and how to prevent them.

I’ve fallen ill. It started with a sore throat and ended in bed. How weak we great humans are in the face of tiny micro-orgasmic germs. They attack us and make the mighty fall. When I was younger this little cold would not see me in bed; for in sickness and in health I would battle the world. But today… 


Today I rest, I drink tea, vitamin C and plenty of soup. I sit on a couch consuming pop culture, and via remote control I manage small forays into the world. As much as I like loafing around this sniffling and sneezing take all the joy out of laziness. The aching joints and tired muscles cry for rest and I can do nothing but give it. Even the mind that is active is dulled; cloudy, foggy and in a daze, where up is down and down is up.


How I hate to be sick. To be couch bound without choice. I hope the running of my nose dries soon and the wetness of my raw throat returns. The clarity of thought too, should come back. But in all honesty, in both sickness and in health, the mind is never clear.


U
ntil I am well and off my couch I will consume pop culture, hot tea and vitamins galore. Until I am well, I may write some more, or not?!