Muslim Food Bank Success Stories
A Syrian Woman Fights Cancer in the Midst of a War S haima Ahmad, 55, lived in a small Syrian town with her husband Dawud and their six children. She lived the modest life of a lower-middle class family and her days were occupied with taking care of her children. One rainy morning, Shaima spoke to her husband about the possibility of having breast cancer. All her symptoms matched what she had heard of about this debilitating disease. Of course, she didn’t let her children get wind of her fears because she didn’t want to cause them distress. When Shaima and Dawud consulted the cancer specialist in a hospital two towns away from home, their worst fears were realized. Two words rang aloud in Shaima’s head. Breast. Cancer. In the weeks and months that followed, Shaima and Dawud made countless trips to the hospital. At first, Shaima walked to the cancer ward side by side with Dawud. After a few rounds of treatment, Dawud had to carry her in a wheelchair. Though the doctors were able to overcome the cancer, they were not able to control the side-effects associated with cancer treatment. Shaima developed lymphedema in her left arm. Lymphedema – often associated with breast cancer – is the swelling of the lymphatic vessels caused by the backup of fluids in tissues. Shaima did her best to hide the excruciating pain that she lived with every day from her family. Dawud also buried the stress related to the crippling cost of the cancer treatment within himself. Just when Shaima thought her life couldn’t get any more trying, her country plunged into civil war. Shaima dragged her aching body to join her family in fleeing Syria. Life as a refugee is tough enough for people with no health issues but it’s so much worse for those with a disability. Research done by the United Nations supports this notion when it states that “refugees with disabilities are more likely to be sidelined in every aspect of humanitarian assistance due to physical, environmental and societal barriers against accessing information, health and rehabilitation servicesand human rights protection.” The Ahmads spent months in neighboring Jordan during which time Shaima did not have access to a doctor. Not all of Shaima and Dawud’s children were with them when they were flown into Canada in December, 2016, as part of the Canadian government’s efforts to give home to displaced Syrian refugees. One of their sons had fled to Iraq and the other to Turkey, each deeming the country they chose as a safer option. When the Muslim Food Bank & Community Services caseworker, Mariam, took up the Ahmads’ case three months after their arrival in Canada the one thing that struck her the most was the newly-arrived couple’s concern for the sons they’d left behind.