Last week, talented British-Bahraini chef, Sarah Hijris, died shortly after being diagnosed with cancer, as reported in the GDN.
Bahrain is a small island and Sarah’s passing has touched many of us.
Sarah was a strong and determined young woman who overcame much to achieve her goals. When I first met her, soon after I arrived in Bahrain in 2011, I was struck by those attributes, but mostly I was impressed by her openness about being born with spina bifida and her refusal to be defined by the condition.
Sarah was a wonderful baker, and I was grateful that she often put those skills to work to produce stunning cakes for charitable and other events at the British Embassy. When my husband was British ambassador here and I was organising events, I always knew that Sarah would be able to create the cake to match the occasion. It would not only look good, but it would also taste delicious.
Medical advances mean that many cancers can be successfully treated, and survival rates are much better than they were. But statistics only tell part of the story. As Sarah’s tragic loss shows, sometimes whatever you do, you cannot avoid the worst outcome.
Cancer will touch us all many times. Fifty per cent of us will be diagnosed with cancer at some point in our lives. If it’s not you, it’s someone you love.
The word itself still scares us. I remember that my mother and her friends would even avoid saying it except in hushed tones. But we need to say it and we need to be aware of it because then we have more chance of detecting cancer early.
Some people are so scared of cancer that they choose to ignore early signs. Often, they are embarrassed to go to the doctor. Men are more likely to stick their head in the sand and pretend that nothing is happening.
Covid-19 hasn’t helped. I know doctors who are frustrated because people have not come forward when they have had concerns because they think that the medical profession is too busy … or because hospitals have become even more scary than they were before, not least because loved ones might not even be able to accompany you when you really need someone to hold your hand.
Fortunately, that is changing, and so are the attitudes of younger people.
The rest of us need to be braver too.
Go to the doctor if you are worried. Learn how to check your body for signs of change. Attend screening appointments, however embarrassed you might be by the thought. Educate yourself about what you can do to protect yourself and your family.
Sarah didn’t have a chance to fight the disease. Cancer is cruel and sometimes, whatever you do, it avoids detection. Our thoughts are with Sarah’s loving family. I know that she was so grateful for their support as she found her way in a world that is often unkind. And, that is a lesson we can learn from Sarah’s life. Do not judge people because they are different; we are all different.
Sometimes it is the people who face the greatest challenges who achieve the most.
RIP Sarah. Thank you for all you taught me.