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.

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!

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.


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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?!

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