In this faith-filled series, we hope to capture how faith leads women to make an impact in their communities. We asked Adhari, a mother, a Muslim, a physician, and a PhD cancer researcher in Muscat, Oman, “How has your faith empowered you to do good in the world?”
I met Adhari when our children were in preschool together. She has a cheerful, friendly, powerful personality. We spent time together observing our children through one-way windows at the preschool, and carpooling to and from the school. She was doing breast cancer research in Provo, Utah, and her stories of family in Oman were beautiful to me. She chose to come to BYU because of the standards in modesty of dress, which are important to her.
Here is what Adhari wrote about faith and family and her motivation to do cancer research and her immense love for her children.
Living in a house of three rooms with eleven siblings wasn’t as hard as it was wealthy and entertaining. Despite being so many in a small place, our mom had a special relationship with each of us. I was her rescuer whenever she needed assistance in daily house work. She hadn’t visited us at our school, come with us to the bus station, or even helped us do our homework, but she usually said, “I know who are you, and I am sure everyone talks about how smart my kids are.”
We wanted to impress her because we knew how she was hiding her struggles and pain raising twelve kids with the absence of our dad, who was working in another country. I will never forget the made-up bed time stories or the incompletely baked cake she prepared.
The biggest lesson we learned from my mom is, “If you want to make a change, be a model.” In fact, it was hard for us to give as much as she did. We worked hard to try and follow in her footsteps.
Getting a medical degree and working in the hospital encouraged me to show and give my best. I planned to deal with every patient as if they were a member of my family. I gave every single one a special take home message, “Your pain is temporary. You are stronger; never surrender to it.”
I will never forget my 15- year-old patient who had leukemia. He was very emaciated and on chemotherapy. He refused to talk to anyone. He shut the door on me four to five times. I heard a nurse once saying that he spent all of his time reading drug labels and searching about them on the internet. I asked him if he had an idea which drug he received today and what dose. He responded correctly without looking at me.
“That is very smart. I will never ask the nurse about your drugs; this is your responsibility,” I said.
The next day, I found a paper with a list of the drugs he received with their doses and time of administration next to him. He continued to do so and made it his task to be prepared before I came. He started to add a column with side effects he experienced. “You will be a smart pharmacist one day,” I told him when he was discharged.
A few years later, we met at the hospital entrance. He looked very healthy. He smiled and said, “I joined a pharmacy school. I am a pharmacist now but I am not sure if I am smart though.” I replied with tearful eyes, “Yes, you are a smart pharmacist.”
He was almost to the point of losing his life when he was surrendering to the nasty treatment and aggressive disease. He needed a strip of light and hope to stand up. Everyone of us has these strips, we should spread them wherever we go.
Though I have always enjoyed being with patients, I was shocked when one of my friends was diagnosed with breast cancer. She was doing great with treatment. Luckily, all factors indicated that she would have a good prognosis. Despite the early detection and very great care she received from her colleagues, she passed away less than a year later because of the unpredictable nature of breast cancer.
We missed her smile, her jokes, and her powerful presence.
I searched a lot about why cancer patients should live a life in tension waiting for awful surprises. Why should they just live waiting for the disease to spread and destroy their whole body? I found no clear answer. The only answer that was everywhere is that cancer behavior is unpredictable.
At this stage I was already full of ideas. I needed to re-organize myself. Where was I heading? What is next? The big aim was to find a way to predict cancer. This lead me to working in a cancer research lab at BYU in Provo, Utah. I missed direct contact with my patients, but the big aim deserves the sacrifice.
Through this enjoyable and hectic journey, I can say family is never an obstacle to success.
Through this enjoyable and hectic journey, I can say family is never an obstacle to success. If we look at it as an obstacle, it will be. My kids are familiar with all parts in my lab. We go there on weekends to finish undone tasks. They call it a “science day,” as I told them to discover things. Our lab trip checklist includes: breakfast, snacks, early morning cooked lunch, baby bouncer (for my newborn), baby carrier, crayons, coloring books and blankets (for afternoon nap). They eat, sleep, play, pray, and discover in my office while I do my experiments. It was really hard but we made it work.
They learned a lot, they got a chance to see and play in a place that not so many kids will get a chance to. They ask to to go there every weekend (I assume they like it!).
In my PhD defense, my 7 month-old girl was on my lap. I learned one very great lesson here, “Obstacles are always there, try to use them to go ahead and enjoy it.”
“Obstacles are always there, try to use them to go ahead and enjoy it.”
Now, with results in hand I can say, “We can predict cancer, we can help.” I hope one day I can go to the clinic and ask for a blood test to check my risk of getting breast cancer and get the results in the same day. For sure we can do it and it is very very soon.