Maysem’s Story

Breast cancer is never “one size fits all.”

As Maysem Alsaidi recalls her mother’s aggressive breast cancer treatment, she’s reminded of why she connected with The Lynn Sage Foundation in the first place.

“We were living in Baghdad in the early ‘90s when my mother found a lump. Treatment at that place and time was completely different from what we’re used to today. It was only after my mother’s complete mastectomy that they realized she had Stage 1 cancer. They took so much out that to this day, one of her arms is bigger than the other. It’s a painful reminder twenty-five years later that less aggressive treatment could have been just as effective.”

Maysem was only six-years-old at the time and her mother, Azhar Alobaidi, was 43. That experience propelled Maysem, as an adult, to seek out an organization devoted to breast cancer research, including improved treatment options.

She found The Lynn Sage Foundation and learned about the Lynn Sage Scholars working to change the outcome of a devastating diagnosis like breast cancer.

“Once I was older and had moved back to the States, I understood the difference in treatments and know there could have been other options for her.”

Research has shown many sub-types of breast cancer, each with a different treatment protocol. There’s no “one size fits all” when it comes to breast cancer, which is quite different from Mrs. Alobaidi’s experience. Maysem’s hope is that women like her mom, whose lack of options may be compounded by cultural stigmas, will be motivated to learn more about the various treatments available.

“My mom was so fortunate because we have a big family that includes doctors. In our culture during that time, you would never look outside your family for support. Most people wouldn’t even have gotten their lump checked.”

Maysem explains that in many cultures, even today, people won’t admit they’re sick. “People will keep their social commitments and pretend it isn’t happening. It’s disappointing, shocking, and scary that their health doesn’t come first.”

Lack of awareness and medical access, pride, and fear may all play a role in preventing women from fully understanding their unique diagnosis and treatment options. Maysem is sharing her family’s experience because it was their support network that made her mother’s survival possible.

“Wherever you are in the world, you need a support system to get through this. My mom is so fortunate to have noticed her lump and be able to turn to her family for help. Over twenty years later, she’s healthy but still gets uncomfortable with the details. As a society — in Baghdad, Chicago, or anywhere else — we have to be open and unafraid to talk about our bodies and, specifically, breast cancer. It’s the only way we can find the answers for our best treatment options.”

Support our Lynn Sage Scholars, the innovative researchers working everyday to change the trajectory of breast cancer. Their work will ultimately help women like Mrs. Alobaidi access the most effective, appropriate, and individualized treatment.

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