Following her mother’s diagnosis, Nabeela Abdullah is committed to raising awareness about breast health in the South Asian community

When Nabeela Abdullah’s mother was diagnosed with breast cancer, the news came at a tremendously challenging time. Her father had recently died of lung disease and her uncle lost his life to throat cancer. Even the word “cancer” was difficult to digest. Abdullah, who grew up in New York City and is of Bangladeshi descent, explains that the disease is a taboo topic in her family’s culture.

“I know it sounds silly but it did not ‘exist’ in my world,” she says.

Illness is considered a private topic, not to be discussed with the outside world. Breast cancer is particularly sensitive topic since mere mention of the body part is out of the question.

“You don't even say the word ‘breast,’” Abdullah said. “It’s just too private.”

Despite the stigma associated with the disease in her community, Abdullah decided to make drastic changes in her life. She switched career paths, leaving her job as a teacher for the healthcare industry where she now works for Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. She also started a BCRF fundraiser in her mother’s honor.

“BCRF is the only research foundation that I know can make the impossible, possible,” Abdullah said describing why she chose to raise funds for BCRF. By championing the cause on social media and selling customized t-shirts, she aims to raise $2,500 for the cause. 

“Breast cancer research is important to me because woman are diagnosed every day,” she said. “I don't want to be afraid.”

After chemotherapy, radiation therapy and surgery, her mother is now in remission. However, Abdullah’s journey with the disease is not over. She hopes that opening a dialogue will inspire more women in her community to remain vigilant about their breast health.

“After my personal experience with breast cancer, I am determined to raise awareness and emphasize that breast cancer is nothing to be embarrassed about,” Abdullah said. “Communication and health education is critical to decreasing cancer-related myths and stigma.”

 

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