Dareen Barbar: No more excuses

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.

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The good fight

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.

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A mother’s love

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.

Dareen’s advice:

  1. Make time to exercise every day
  2. Eat a clean, healthy diet and avoid canned or processed food
  3. Try to minimise your sugar intake or cut it out entirely

Be more like Dareen, and register for the Dubai Fitness Challenge using the app.