Twenty-seven year old mom, Batul Katub, received the scariest news of her life when she found out she had cancer. After traveling to India and receiving treatment, she has beaten the disease. Involving her daughter in her treatment was a major part of her victory. In an interview with Kuwait Moms Guide, she shares her story and how she told her four year old the devastating news.
KMG: Let's start at the beginning. When and how did you first find out you had cancer? Can you share what type? What is the prognosis and how long have you been fighting it (chemotherapy, etc.).
Batul: First of all, I had a tumor called Ewing Sarcoma, which is basically a tumor on your pelvis region on the left side to be precise. Coming to the diagnosis, I had excruciating pain in my back and left leg for two months and being a mom means no sick days. Also, I was in the process of shifting my house so we all thought that I had pulled a muscle while packing. When, I finally did see a doctor, they also didn't take it too seriously. I was diagnosed a month later. And it was done by a simple MRI. But at that time, I was so depressed and agitated with the lack of interest shown by the doctors in Kuwait that I shifted to India for a proper diagnosis. There they saw my MRI and immediately conducted a biopsy, which revealed the tumor. I would, therefore, urge anyone and everyone reading this to get a diagnosis as soon as you have any unnatural pain, lump or rash on your body. Most likely its nothing but you never know you can save yourself a world of pain.
KMG: You must have been terrified, shocked and scared when you found out. How did you handle this?
Batul: You would think that but I was actually relieved, like I said I was in excruciating pain for a long while. I was just glad that I now knew that I could be cured. The shock, depression and fear only came when I started the chemotherapy. It was an absolute nightmare.
KMG: When and how did you tell your daughter? What was the thought process you went through? What did you say and how did she react?
Batul: At the beginning of my treatment, my daughter was in Kuwait with my sister. She was there while I had my initial treatment done. I was worried about her seeing me like this and how it would affect her but the mother in me missed her so much. I cried for her constantly and kept looking at her pictures. Finally, I decided that I couldn't stay without her. When my daughter first saw me, she had assumed that my disease was related to my leg pain and I didn't want to explain the intricacies of cancer to her. But when she did ask me: "Why do you still go to the hospital, you can walk a little now?" I said, "That there is something dirty inside mommy's back which the doctors have to remove." She was fine with the explanation. The truth is I want a close and truthful relationship with my daughter. I feel if we tell them the truth and answer their questions, we encourage the same behavior in them as well.
KMG: What has been the most challenging aspect of having cancer and involving your child?
Batul: I have a big family and my mother, sister and husband took care of my daughter Zahra. But I think the hardest part was not being able to do things for her myself. Just simple things like dressing her for the day, tucking her into bed at night and etc. I really missed that.
KMG: Have you turned to experts or resources or outside help to explain the disease to your daughter (if so, what resources/outside help) and was that helpful/useful? Would you recommend it?
Batul: No, I haven't relied on outside help. I tried to find help on the internet but couldn't find any.
KMG: How did telling your daughter turn out? Did it make things easier for you and her or did it make it more difficult? Do you feel that your child is more fearful of losing you, more anxious or worried as a result?
Batul: I think it was great that I told her, but I did that when she asked me and I think that was the most practical approach. I tried to stick to her normal routine because that provides a sense of comfort for the child and I think the best thing was we never pampered her tantrums but I hugged and kissed her a lot. But she missed Kuwait a lot and that was one of the major reasons I came back mid-treatment. And that was a good decision as well. KCC was better than the private hospital in India. She had become reclusive and withdrawn there and she used to worry about me a lot too. But coming back she became the same old Zahra again.
KMG: What have been the benefits of involving your child? Has it helped you in your struggle physically, emotionally, psychologically?
Batul: A child’s love is so unconditional and healing, it gives you one thing that no medicine in the world can give you and that is motivation. Whenever Zahra talked to me, she would always say when you get better, it was never if you get better, it was always when. She used to help me exercise by counting 1-10 for my repetitions and she used to give me my medicines. In fact, she used to remember the timings of the medications better than me. And as I started getting better, I told her that it was because of her and she felt so ecstatic.
KMG: What advice would you offer someone who has just found out they have cancer? What advice would you offer for helping them tell / involve their kids?
Batul: I believe in honesty with the kids because I really believe in an open relationship with your children. I think the best approach is to be honest with your children when they ask you the "question". I think it is better to involve your children because I truly believe that she was my anchor throughout this experience. Looking at her was an instant mood changer and I'd feel happy. And having me around made her happy as well.
KMG: What is the status of your disease now and what do you hope for the future?
Batul: I'm cured now but I'll still have to keep going for checkups from time to time.
Batul, a mother of one, graduated with a BBA from the American University of Kuwait and has been in Kuwait for 21 years. She writes a blog on Facebook called Fighting Cancer with Attitude. You can follow her on Instagram @fighting_cancer_with_attitude
Originally published in Issue #21 of the Kuwait Moms Guide e-Newsletter