The courage of Iran’s citizens and physicians fills me with awe as a doctor and woman. It is a miracle that it can withstand all of life’s challenges. But if I were to suggest that it was possible to cure them, I would be considered both unpatriotic and unprofessional. Even worse, I would be accused of treating the disease rather than the illness.
I have been speaking with many Iranian women of the old generation – women whom I never imagined I would meet. They came to me to have their mammograms and breast surgeries performed. At that time, the American government was telling many Iranians to remain silent about their reproductive health. The United States had no obligation in the war on terror and was providing no assistance in combating breast cancer.
But when I told these women that their breasts would never disappear, let alone cancerous ones, they were surprised. But when I asked when that day would come, they turned away.
When I visited the city of Shiraz, in south-central Iran, I met a group of Iranians who were attending a conference called “Mastectomy, A Surgeon’s Dilemma,” a talk about breast cancer, breast augmentation and the benefits of mammograms that they were expected to attend. Their attendance was a last-minute request they could not refuse, but a few days later I was invited to speak at the conference on the same topic. The room was full of breast cancer patients who were experiencing their own personal challenges. Their stories of survival and overcoming breast cancer were all the more poignant because they were among the few who had actually experienced this disease and had survived.
It was my first visit to Iran, and I was so impressed with the courage of these women that I decided to return. But when I asked for their permission, I immediately received a message telling me that I could not give permission. This could be their final message to me. They did not know when I would return. I was not certain of even the date