Sara Khatib: 4 Lessons I Learned While Battling Cancer at TEDxLAU (Full Transcript)

Sara Khatib

Full transcript of Sara Khatib’s TEDx Talk: 4 Lessons I Learned While Battling Cancer at TEDxLAU conference.

[Sara Khatib — 4th year pharmacy student at LAU — had experienced a lot of hardships for her young age. Battling cancer, living with an amputation, and enduring the accompanying pain left her with the capacity for so much wisdom, happiness, and humanity. Giving this TEDx talk was on her bucket list as she wanted to share her message with the world! Exactly two weeks after standing on the TEDxLAU stage, Sara passed away on September 5, 2014, leaving behind her a huge following that continues to live by her inspirational message]

Listen to the MP3 Audio here: 4-lessons-i-learned-while-battling-cancer-by-sara-khatib-at-tedxlau


I have four objects in front of me: a floater, a children’s handwriting book, a wig and a dog’s leash. As random as this combination might seem to you, each of these objects symbolizes an important lesson I have learned this year.

My name is Sara Khatib. I am a fourth year pharmacy student and I am here to share my story with you and the important lessons it taught me.

Lesson 1: Sometimes giving up is the way to survive.

When I was young, my parents used to rent a chalet by the sea. They trusted me to go swimming by myself, but they always told me that if I was ever caught in a waterspout or a turbio, then I should not fight it. They told me to take a deep breath and let it drag me all the way to the bottom where its current is less powerful and then use every energy I have to exit it and swim back to the surface.

I was recently caught in a waterspout. It all started in 2008 when I was diagnosed with a benign tumor in my right elbow, which I had to remove surgically. In 2012, the tumor recurred and I had to remove it again. Then again this year, I randomly discovered my second recurrence when a simple act of throwing a paper in the garbage can had led to multiple bone fractures in my right elbow. I was accustomed to this tune. I thought that it was as usual, that with a surgical removal, some pain killers and a pep talk, and I’d be back on my feet. But this time, that wasn’t the case.

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The doctors said that this time, the tumor was aggressive, and surgery was urgent. It seemed very similar to the two previous surgeries, until two weeks later on Christmas Eve I was admitted to the hospital for a wound infection at the surgery site. They told me I’d be out in time for New Year’s. Well, that wasn’t the case either. Instead of champagne and a sparkly dress, I had IV fluid and a hospital robe.

Six long weeks later, I was still at the hospital, the doctors still trying to find the source of my infection. I lost track of time. I don’t remember at which point, they realized that it wasn’t an infection that they were looking for. That’s when I was diagnosed with cancer. I had to start chemotherapy. I lost my hair, I lost my appetite. I lost weight, and I lost hope. Suddenly, they told me I had to get an emergency amputation.

One week later, I was back home without my right arm. You could say I was having a bad couple of days. When it all started, I was in a state of rebellion. “Why me?” I was angry, I wanted an answer, an explanation. It did not take me long though to realize, that asking why is useless. Bad things just happen. So I decided to stop thinking, and let myself be taken by this waterspout. I was dragged through needles, procedures, complications, surgeries, medications, and to top it all off, an amputation. I was sucked violently, all the way to the bottom, but when it was time, when I felt a window of weakness in the current, I found my way back to the surface.

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