Khitam Masoud is a cancer survivor and marathon runner. Here, she shares her own personal story in how the tests and trials in her life have emerged her with strength that she is now ready to share with others. Her campaign, Blessons, can be supported here.
My name is Khitam Masoud. Those of you who already know me, know that I’m not one to keep anything inside. I have a word called “BLESSONS”, A blesson is what happens when you see the blessing in the lesson that your challenge taught you. We all have a story, we all have our own demons, we all have our own issues and fears. Not everyone has the emotional support from their loved ones when you think you need it most. You have to learn how to survive because when you know that you are all that you have, being STRONG is the only thing you can be.
Growing up in a very religious and old fashioned middle eastern family, I always knew my life wasn’t all about an arranged marriage to my first cousin and popping out kids. I always wanted to make a difference and teach women like my mother who I would see depressed as she raised 7 children at home as her only duty in life. She didn’t even finish high school because being married off was more important in those days.
I ran away from home at 16 in Sacramento, CA. I took my family to court, was legally emancipated in 1998. I wanted to be free from the cage I lived in for 16 years. I wanted to be free to go to college, make something of myself that wasn’t cleaning, cooking and raising children as my only options in life. As the oldest of 7, it was really hard to take this risk of never seeing or speaking to any of my family members once I brought shame to the family. In my heart, I knew that I had to make this sacrifice, not just for me but for my sisters, my mother and all the other women in this world who feel that they have no freedom to live life the way they choose to live it.
I wanted to show my mother, sisters and all the women that they deserve to be loved the way they want to be. They deserve to be treated the way they want to be. By showing the world that I can leave home at 16, finish high school while working two jobs, living on my own and getting into college to make something of myself without a man doing it for me, was my only goal.
Working two jobs, only having me as my only provider made it really hard to get through college when eating and rent was a priority before homework. I have slept in my car, slept on friends floors, lived off 29 cents hamburgers and top ramen to get by. I couldn’t keep up with my grades to keep the financial aid for school so I ended up not going back the next semester.
Since then, I have been working any job I can to just live and make it through life on my own. I have always wanted that college education. At 26, 10 years after running away from home, I was diagnosed with a very rare cancer called Vulvar Cancer caused by HPV. Back then in 2006, HPV was very new. Not much research was done and the only thing we knew was that my body and my immune system couldn’t fight off these strands. I was sleeping on the couch at a friends place at the time. I had no support with the medical debt I was about to rack up. In 2007 I had a partial vagectomy, partial vulvectomy, laser to remove more then 13 leisons, leep, cone & D/C.
I went through cancer on my own. I have been through many types of emotional & physical abusive relationships. I have had to do what I needed to do to survive and not ashamed of the choices that were made to survive. When I came to Chicago in 2007, after all my surgeries, I wanted to start over. I enrolled into HWC, spent 3 years there while bar-tending full time and volunteering at Imerman Angels. Through that organization, I learned the power of healing by sharing my stories, my experiences, my BLESSONS.
When I recieved my degree from HWC in 2013, I couldn’t believe how much closer I was to getting my Bachelors. I have had so many challenging lessons since then. It’s been a journey to get myself through college. In Jan 2016, I was finally able to go back to school. I’m a Senior at EIU right now, full time at that and all online.
Since November 2015, my cancer check ups started to come back with positive cancer cells again. My doctors are always trying to help me reduce the stress in my life because my body just doesn’t take it well and the cancer in my body feeds off of it so easily. That’s why I run. I run for many things, but mostly to reduce stress while making a difference.
In Jan 2016, I had another biopsy. The cancer cells were increasing and spreading, Cervical Cancer stage Zero at that time. I have changed jobs and made some changes in job duties moving forward to reduce stress, have let people go that have been the closest to my heart possibly in my life, as much as it hurt to watch them walk away from me, i needed to be strong so I can reduce the stress. I rescued a dog as an emotional support animal.
In February after running the LA Marathon I had another biopsy and learned this week that I have Cervical Cancer stage 1B. Over the past several weeks I have recently had to accept that even the ones you love the most in your life, may not be as strong as you need them to be. Life sure has it’s way of teaching me who really understands the meaning of unconditional love and how much they value you as a human being when you need them the most.
Being strong and being in survival mode is all I know. Taking care of your health first is something that I have been working on for years. I have decided to take this opportunity to create my own organization called BLESSONS.ORG. The Website is coming soon! I want to continue making a difference by raising awareness for women around the world to see the blessings in the lessons that your challenges teach you. No matter what happens in your life, no one and nothing can take away your education. Knowledge truly is POWER.
I’m dedicating my 2016 BOSTON MARATHON, my 3rd World Marathon Major to BLESSONS.ORG. I want to begin today with this launch of my own mission, to fundraise and fund BLESSONS Scholarships for women who have had challenging lessons and need some assistance to getting back in school like me. I want to help women learn to love themselves, have more self esteem, confidence and find that fire that lives within, to show themselves and their worlds, what their passions are, to not feel caged up like a bird, without a voice because of their challenging lessons that have prevented them from going back to school.
Funds that are raised will be to help build dreams for others in addition to my own, by building this organization and all that it entails. Please help me continue to make a difference while I face another cancer journey, be an example as I finish my first senior semester at EIU, run Boston on April 18th in honor of all women who still need to find self love whether it’s through abusive relationships, facing cancer alone, radical religious views, sexually abused, abortions and anything that challenges ones access to an education while not having their families around them for support with having none to little resources of going to back to college.