It had been four years since I had been to Amman, Jordan. Every two years, I have been invited to speak and teach at the Jordanian Breast Cancer Project’s Conference: Breast Cancer in the Arab Nations, which is co-sponsored by the world famous King Hussein Cancer Center in Amman.
I missed the conference two years ago due to my breast cancer diagnosis. So, when I arrived to give my first lecture, the room was filled with “old” friends, technologists and radiologists from throughout the Middle East that I had the pleasure of meeting at prior conferences over the years. I could not have had a warmer welcome back. Lots of hugs and kisses (three times on the cheek, which is the custom!) and selfies were taken.
They made me feel like the rock star of mammography! When the director introduced me formally, she told them that I was now a breast cancer survivor, and they were shocked. They did not know why I was absent two years ago. Now almost all of them (60+) said together “Praise God!” with smiles of acknowledgement and encouragement. Their warmth and receptivity brought me to tears.
I had gathered together some “giveaways.” You know, the stuff we give out for Breast Cancer Awareness Month (thanks Anita from Imaging Healthcare Specialists in San Diego for donating a cute pink ribbon manicure kit for each participant). I ordered all the stuff I could find on Amazon (that I could fit into my suitcase) and hit the Dollar Store the night before I left for extra treats to tuck into their little pink gift bags. You would have thought that I had given them the rarest and most treasured of gifts as I passed out the bags after my “welcome home celebration.”
The Jordanians are warm people; proud of their country, culture and heritage. The technologists I worked with were eager to learn; most spoke English, but perhaps some could only read my slides. Even if they didn’t understand what I was saying all the time (you have to speak slowly) they were enthusiastic and willing “students.” We had two mammography units, thanks to Fuji International, and the techs waited their turns, eager to try the positioning technique I was sharing with them. Even though some had attended in previous years, they wanted to show me their skills and improve if they could.
It is immensely gratifying to be part of such important educational efforts. As a volunteer working in many different, mostly developing or third world countries, I see an eagerness and receptivity that is hard to describe. I wish I could take all of you with me so you could have such an experience and feel the appreciation that is expressed for what you do. Again, please know that your fellow techs around the world feel the same struggles (if not more) and challenges you do. But also know that your/their role in breast cancer detection is critical, not only in this country, but in all countries that have the means to provide this life saving examination.