Being a teenage girl is hard enough. But a teenager who loses one of her legs to bone cancer at the tender age of 15? That’s a challenge.
Dareen Barbar was a bright and athletic young woman in Lebanon before she was diagnosed with osteogenic sarcoma. After seven months of chemotherapy and the amputation of her left leg, the cancer was gone — but so was most of the energy inside her.
“I gave up on the thought of ever being athletic,” she said. “After falling into a depression, I neglected my body and just stopped taking care of myself throughout my 20s and 30s.”
Instead, she focused on just trying to be “normal.” She went to school and became an insurance clerk, then married and had two children before moving with her family to Dubai in 2006.
Then, the unthinkable happened. While simply doing dishes one day in her kitchen, Barbar fell and broke her left hip, the one used to support her prosthetic leg. She was just 36.
“That’s what really woke me up,” she reflected. “It was like someone slapped me in the face and said, ‘What are you doing?’ I had let my body get so weak that standing and washing dishes had become difficult. I knew something had to change.”
Determined to make herself strong again, Barbar started going to the gym after she recovered from her fall. She started with easy walks on the treadmill, then added in circuit training. She felt a transformation in her body — and her spirit — right away.
“I had always heard that exercise releases endorphins, and I discovered firsthand how true it was,” she said. “I became hooked on fitness and the more I saw results, the more motivated I became.”
Now, just two years after her accident, Barbar is a certified fitness instructor and nutritionist. She competes in charity events and helps others achieve their goals, no matter the obstacles they’ve faced in the past.
Her best fitness advice? Keep a positive outlook. “Just be happy and keep a smile on your face,” she said, “and miracles can happen.”