Veteran actor Nadia Jamil shares her journey of strength, healing and empowerment in an insightful interview with Social Diary Magazine.
Nadia, how were you diagnosed with breast cancer and what were the symptoms you experienced?
I felt a lump and went to the doctor immediately. The biopsy that followed showed that my tumor was malignant. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of checkups. If I had not done them regularly, I would not have caught my grade three tumor at such an early stage.
What type of cancer do you have?
Estrogen-sensitive breast cancer.
Do you have a family history of the disease?
Yes – a strong history on both sides.
How has your experience with cancer changed your view on life?
This journey through cancer has constantly shown me how full to the brim my glass is – with love and with beauty surrounding me. It has made me rely on myself emotionally. I have learned that I have an army inside me that will save my life if I turn my awareness to myself and trust myself. I don’t need to be hurt by the choices others make anymore. I have also learned the power in solitude, silence and nature. I have accepted pain as my teacher.
What has your road to recovery been like?
Physically it has been very, very rough. Emotionally, it has been an eye-opener. Mentally, I have learned to make things easier for myself in the future. Spiritually, it has been beautiful.
What personal changes have you undergone following your diagnosis?
I have learned not to rely on anyone emotionally and to forgive and forget more easily. I am my own responsibility. I have learned to set boundaries, to love my own company and not take a single breath for granted.
How important is family support during cancer treatment and its aftermath?
Family and friends are a wonderful bonus in helping out someone. Whether it is practical stuff like getting to treatments, keeping the home sorted, pep talks to remind you how lucky you are or hugs and smiles. They are all important and so healing.
Did you rely on spiritual guidance or moral support from someone special to get the help you needed?
I got physical support from the NHS (National Health Service), my mum and my son. My brothers and friends reached out to me every day. But in the end, the only emotional support I could depend on was myself, and that strength came from my faith and constantly tapping into the source energy of Allah.
It is okay to have no hair. In fact, it is rather fun and very liberating. Once the journey with cancer starts, it never really ends. You learn to live with the truth that it may come back and you learn to make the best of life.
What are some misnomers about cancer?
It is an end; it will beat you; it will weaken you. Mine was a beginning to self-reliance. It didn’t beat me; it taught me. There was no battle. Cancer strengthened me. I let the NHS and Allah take over and thankfully, I am good.
Even a small percentage of men get breast cancer. Do you feel that there is stigma attached in Pakistan to talk so openly about breast cancer in public, men included?
Yes – the word breast is stigmatized. If it is considered vulgar to say breast, how can we talk about diseases that affect breasts?
What would you say to people with cancer who are newly diagnosed and have little hope left?
There is always hope. The person is hope. As long as there is another second on the clock, there is hope, and there are always lessons to be learnt. A tree bends in a storm. We need to be flexible and accepting of what comes our way and find the best plan to live our time.
Sometimes silence and solitude are great gifts because it is only in still waters that one can see the wonders, the colors, the chorals and sea life of the ocean. So, anxiety, anger, panic and fear are like waves in a stormy sea. We can’t see anything through them. They hide the wonders of our self. It is important to still oneself, calm down and find clarity. From that clarity, you will find hope.
Something you would like to say to our readers who are inspired by you?
Thank you! I am inspired by the inspiration of others and I am deeply grateful.