ABU DHABI // When Filipina Sharon Mendoza was first told that she had Stage 3 breast cancer, she saw it as a blessing.
“I know that God loves me and this illness is His way to purify my soul and erase my sins before I die. It was a gift from God,” she says.
Dr Mendoza, 46, was divorced and came to the UAE in 2006, before becoming a professor in business management at Skyline University in Sharjah several years later. She converted to Islam in 2009 and her Muslim name is Shaimah.
“I came to the UAE to support my children and my mother. They are all I have and I wanted them to have an education and to take care of my mother.”
The single mother has two children – a 20-year-old son and a 19-year-old daughter.
She was diagnosed with cancer in October.
“I felt a small lump in my breast and I ignored it. I never suspected that it was breast cancer because there is no family history of cancer.”
When she felt a “shooting pain” in her left breast she went to see a doctor. On December 21, she had a mastectomy and, on January 11, surgery to insert a port for the chemotherapy, which she started about two weeks later.
“The chemotherapy is hard. The nausea hits you and the world starts spinning, Everything you eat tastes bitter and the blinds have to remain closed because the light hurts my eyes. I couldn’t sleep for two consecutive days and then I spent two days sleeping.”
Four days after her chemotherapy began, she lost almost all of her hair. What remains will fall out during her next chemo session.
Dr Mendoza will require four more sessions and radiation therapy, which she cannot afford.
“My insurance covered my mastectomy and the chemo port surgery, but it can no longer cover the rest of my treatment.”
Her treatment at NMC hospital will cost Dh106,000.
“I feel blessed that I have the best oncologist and surgeon but I went to a charity because I can’t afford to continue treatment.”
In spite of the effects of the chemotherapy, Dr Mendoza continues to lecture at the university. “I have to. I have no choice. If I stop working, then my children’s lives and my mother’s life will be destroyed. Who will take care of them? I’m their only supporter.”
Hisham Al Zahrani, manager of zakat and social services at Dar Al Ber, said: “We hope that readers would donate and help cover the cost of Dr Mendoza’s therapy. She is the sole breadwinner winner of the family and her children and mother need her.”