It is strange how sometimes people can open up to each other. Without even knowing each other, they are able to share all their worries and talk about issues that burden them. These kinds of discussions can take place anywhere at the bus stop, in a taxi, at the market, or in the waiting hall of a clinic or a hospital.
She looked very young to me, healthy, and beautiful, but she was subsumed with silence and sadness. Her eyes were looking to everything as if she did not want to miss a single detail. I sat next to her, each of us waiting our turn at the clinic. We began to talk about our children who are almost the same age; we were talking about common things in our children’s life. We were laughing. Then suddenly this lady, started to express how life can be so unfair, and so shocking, I asked her why, and as she burst into tears she revealed to me her big secret, her ultimate pain. She had been diagnosed with breast cancer.
I felt so sad for her, but couldn’t say a word of comfort; she continued talking as if talking could take away all her pain, thoughts, fear and frustration, I did not stop her.
She talked about her family, her children, their dreams, their plans, what they like and what they dislike. She spoke of her feelings as a mother with an unknown future, she talked about almost everything, and I just listened to her words.
She told me she had started to write a diary. She said that she wanted to write everything and anything. Having been diagnosed with breast cancer, her whole world had changed. She explained that it was not the disease itself that scared her it was being locked in Gaza, unable to access suitable treatment. Unfortunately, in Gaza the proper medical care is often not an option that is open to you. Since Gaza has come under siege, life and death have became key elements in the lives of its people.
After being diagnosed with cancer, my new found confidant’s life and plans changed completely. "I had to think again about every word, reaction, and every decision that I had to make," she explained. In the lines of her diary she is able to write instructions to her children, the food recipes they like, the jokes she tells them, the stories they like to hear before they go to sleep. She also includes all the plans she has made for their future, and describes how she imagines them as young men and women.
I thought to myself how life in Gaza is a total suffering, for normal healthy people, but disastrous for those who fall sick, as the woman continued to explain that she had that very day gone with her husband to the ministry of health to try get a referral to be treated in Israel.
"I was shocked from the number of people trying to do the same," she confided. "They thought of this medical referral as their savior. I just wondered why they spend all this time desperately trying to obtain this referral while they know that it is not only a matter of having this approval, but also a matter of the soldier at the check point, whether he will allow them to cross or keep them frustratingly and silently waiting for hours to have access to Israeli hospitals. Wasting their precious time."
Her conclusion was adamant "I have made up my mind, I am not going to waste a single second waiting at the doors of the ministry, or at the check point, instead I am going to spend these hours with my children, they deserve it, we will laugh, tell stories, hug each other and have fun, I am not going to waste my time any more."
Gaza, October 2009
Najwa Sheikh Ahmed is a Palestine refugee, who lives in Nuseirat camp with her husband and three children. These are her personal stories.