How Leading Saudi Chef Afnan Aljaadi Thrived Despite Her Obstacles Of Depression And Multiple Sclerosis

Photo Credit: Afnan Aljaadi / Arab News

It’s no news that life has its way of throwing unexpected challenges, but what’s important is how we rise from those obstacles. One lady that is showing how she rises, is Afnan Aljaadi. Afnan Ajaadi is a Saudi woman who is thriving as one of Saudi Arabia’s top chefs.

Although Afnan is seeing much success with her specialised French, Italian, Asian cuisine and cake decorating business – Une Meringue, it hasn’t come without its fair hurdles.

When she was in her freshmen year of college, Afnan was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis – an autoimmune disease that affects the nerves and brain.

In an exclusive interview with Arab News, the chef spoke about her journey.

Diagnosed in 2008, Afnan’s first symptoms were dizzy spells that would cause her to faint, sensitivity to sunlight, and migraines. The symptoms affected her studies and her grades began to drop. It got so bad that before her diagnosis, her teachers would think she was lying about her condition.

She stated: “The disease was very strange. I had never heard of it before, but I am very thankful that I discovered the symptoms (early) and did not lose the ability to move.

“I was struggling so much in that first year because society did not accept the changes I was going through. That has turned me into a very reserved person.”

The cause of Multiple Sclerosis is unknown and there is no cure as of yet.

Despite Afnan’s diagnosis, her symptoms worsened: her fainting increased, numbness filled the left side of her face and her skin was very sensitive to cold water.

She told Arab News, “I went into a spiral of sadness and depression after acknowledging that I had been diagnosed with the disease and was not receptive to it.”

Whilst going through her struggles, one thing she held onto was her passion for cooking.

After participating in cooking competitions, Afnan was able to get multiple certificates, start her cake decorating business and even join Fatafeat, which is a Middle Eastern food and lifestyle TV channel.

The top chef continues to push through her challenges.

“The most challenging obstacle is losing control of my muscles, especially when I do my daily routine of work in pastries and cooking and all I feel is numbness,” Afnan said. “But I am a survivor. I changed my lifestyle and understood what could hurt me. I’m still fighting it. It’s a matter of adapting and adjusting to a certain healthy lifestyle and habits to maintain a sustainable day-to-day routine.”

Choosing not to let the disease slow her down, Afnan finished the Arab News interview with some encouraging words for anyone else with MS: “I’d encourage you to let go of your comfort zone to avoid bouts of depression. Remember that your persistence is a source of energy for others who are suffering.”

Chef Afnan Aljaadi’s persistence in pursing her goals and passions despite her physical challenges, is a lesson for all of us to have the courage to push through obstacles and be brave enough to dream.