The Lebanese superwoman hopes to inspire the wider community to get moving
Dubai resident Dareen Barbar lost her leg in a battle to survive cancer – but that hasn’t stopped her from transforming her life. Having never been to a gym until her mid-30s, Dareen is now a fitness trainer and a role model for people of determination. Here she shares her remarkable journey.
I was 15 years old when I was diagnosed with osteogenic sarcoma, an aggressive form of bone cancer. I went through chemotherapy and a lot of pain before doctors said that my leg had to be amputated above the knee. After the operation, it was difficult to get back on my feet – not just learning to walk again, but also adapting to life as a disabled person. It took me a long time but I eventually realised my blessings, looked to the future and fought, with my family by my side.
The next chapter
I moved from Lebanon to Dubai with my husband over a decade ago. Shortly after I gave birth to my second child in 2013, I had an accident and broke my hip, on the same side of my amputation. For three months, I couldn’t move or do anything so my hip could heal. As a result, my muscles became weak. When it came time to rehabilitate, I knew I had to transform my life.
“The accident was devastating because, like my cancer, it brought me back to square one”
I decided to go to a gym and get fit. I was in my thirties and I’d never been to one before. My husband helped me at the start and, in that first year, I lost around 25kgs. A year later, in 2015, I participated in the Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon and it was a great achievement for me as I’d never even walked 4km in my life! Now, I’ve set my sights on competing at the World Beauty Fitness & Fashion (WBFF) London in November, in the transformation division. I’m on a very strict diet and work out every day at Train Strength & Fitness in Al Quoz, which usually involves one hour of weight and resistance training, followed by 20 to 30 minutes of cardio.
My mother is my strength. When I was depressed, she would comfort me with words of encouragement and give me hope. I still look up to her. She says that all the tears and difficulties I faced in the past, made me the strong person I am today.
“I remember that when I lost my leg, I wanted a role model – someone I could identify with. I couldn’t find anyone back then, so I chose to become one to help others”
I’m now a qualified gym instructor and people with disabilities often contact me to say that I inspire them, which motivates me to do more. Fitness should be a part of everyone’s life. I’m a mother and, like most mothers, we tend to forget ourselves, focusing all our attention on our children. Before I broke my hip, I would feel guilty about leaving my kids to exercise, but now I know that mothers should love themselves first. If we’re not healthy, we can’t do our best to take care of our families.
Make time to exercise every day
Eat a clean, healthy diet and avoid canned or processed food
Try to minimise your sugar intake or cut it out entirely