Rana Aljelwah

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Time: 13 April, 2020

Rana Aljelwah

Full time mom and cancer survivor

At one point in my beautiful, fulfilling life, I learned that you must renew your intentions and motives daily and be mindful of every beautiful little thing.

My name is Rana Aljelwah, I am a native of Al-Ahsa living in Dhahran. My father supported my siblings and I, and our mother, a woman with a strong personality, was a major influence in my life.

My father is a quiet and softly spoken man while my mother is sociable and lively. She grew up in Iraq, graduating from the University of Baghdad. She married my father and moved to the US, where he got a degree in computer science and where they had me. The mix in cultures had a major impact on our lives with us growing up respecting all races, cultures and societies.

I graduated from Dhahran Ahliyya School and then from King Saud bin Abdul Aziz University, majoring in Business Administration. Education was very important in our household; we attended the best schools and my mother was very keen on ensuring that all her children received an excellent education.

My father wanted us to shape our own personalities, and never to see ourselves as “systematic”. He encouraged us to be ourselves, market ourselves, and speak for ourselves. He’s very supportive, and my parents’ role in raising us with that mentality made us all the successful people we are today.

After graduating, I worked for the Saudi American Bank (SAMBA) and Saudi Aramco, just like my father, and soon after, I married my husband.

The first major change in my life was the birth of my eldest daughter, Laial, and by the time she was two years old, we decided to expand our family. Soon after getting pregnant with my second daughter, Ghala, I was diagnosed with lymphoma cancer.

My journey through cancer treatment was the major turning point in my life, and everything changed.

Just like my mother, I was a very sociable person: I had many friends and acquaintances and kept a very active lifestyle influenced by my father. Chocolate and sweets were never allowed except on special occasions.

I began my treatment at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas with my daughter, her nanny and my husband. I learned new things about myself during these tough months. I had a major fear of needles but somehow found the courage to be patient. I found the good in whatever hit me every day, I discovered inner strength I never thought I would find, and I grew very close to my daughter as we went out for walks, library visits and more.

I was able to find some form of joy, as I had to put myself first, keeping in mind that I looked different. I was a cancer patient, yellow faced and with no hair; I was pregnant with my second daughter, and yet I found strength in acceptance.

During these tough times, I had my family close by — without their support and love, I wouldn’t have been able to be this strong. It was one of the toughest times in my life, but I made it through. After my recovery, I moved onto another stage in my life and decided that I would not let anything bring me down. I am a proud cancer fighter and survivor, I am a wife to a wonderful husband, a devoted daughter and sister, and a proud mother of three beautiful girls.

One of the gifts that I received during my hospital stay and while giving birth to my second daughter, was a wall filled with encouraging messages from my friends. I have hung these messages of hope in my house.

I am a stay-at-home mom, and my husband and I were keen to ensure our daughters stayed true to themselves. Each one has a distinct personality and is unique on her own. We are big fans of the arts and my daughters and I paint; my eldest, 14-year-old Laial, is a professional ballerina; Ghala, who’s 11-years-old, is a drummer and a tennis player having played in several tournaments, and my youngest Dana, at 9-years-old, is a pianist who also takes lessons in kick-boxing with me.

These are difficult times with the coronavirus outbreak, but my daughters are all still very active. Each one is continuing her lessons through Zoom conference calls — even with Laial’s ballet practice, she practices and submits her work accordingly.

I enjoy cycling but kickboxing became an addiction that I first picked up on one of our yearly family trips to the Seychelles. Five years ago, I found a class at the hotel gym and discovered that I had a great stamina and energy. My daughter Ghala once took a video of me during a class and said: “Mama, look at yourself.” I haven’t stopped since.

I believe in staying active and make use of the time that I have, and my family follows that same mantra. I’m active in my community, giving talks on my journey through cancer, while motivating others to keep a healthy and active lifestyle. My love for staying active wasn’t halted by my diagnosis — in fact it made me realize the importance of it even more.

Through the different stages in life, I found love and care everywhere I went, so there was no room to feel down. I question everything, always ask the right questions and stay devoted to my mantra, always looking towards the brighter side of things and that’s what keeps me going.

Through a positive outlook in life, I believe I can achieve so many things: You can’t have a rainbow without any rain.

This article was first published in Arab News

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