Outside it was one of those perfect Cape Town summer days. Peering through the wooden blinds of my room I could see Table Mountain uncovered by cloud. I longed to leave the confines and heat of my room but felt imprisoned, waiting on news that I knew was bound to change my life forever.
“No calamity befalls, but with the leave (ie decision) and Qadar of Allah” (Qur’an 64:11)
My thoughts were interrupted by my two week old baby needing to be nurtured. I looked down at her, and felt so blessed that this little being, delicate and graceful was born. I knew then that whatever it was that I was meant to face, this little being was sent by my Creator, and I took it as a sign to be strong.
Then came the news. News I had feared, but the reality of which had never dawned upon me. I paced the passageway countless times, trying desperately to absorb the news given to me from the other end of the line.
Saying it out loud sounded like some foreign disease, one that I had only seen in movies made by celebrities whose fake display paled in comparison to the realities I was about to face .
Kneeling on a cold yet welcoming passage floor, I lifted my hands above my head in supplication. I asked for the strength to convey the news of my incurable malignant brain tumor to my beloved husband, children and family.
Like an automaton, I had no tears, just disbelief and a strange numbness.
“O, you who believe! Seek help in patience and the Prayer” (Qur’an 2:153)
My parents, who had instilled a consciousness of Allah (SWT) in me from a very young age, re-confirmed to me that everything comes from Allah and that I should be strong have patience and persevere. Conveying the news to my spouse, children and siblings and listening to them reveal the depths of their own fears was the hardest part. Fears shared by me. But they stood by me, firm and unwavering in their continuous love and support.
Our family shares a strong bond and this news strengthened those bonds. It pulled and stretched each rope that held us together. Little did we know that, at times, we would be holding on to only the fibers which remained.
The weeks that followed were a myriad of Oncologist meetings, tests and planning for the treatment I was to undergo. And like a deer I was to lay caged by high tech machines which were meant to bring about relief. So the weeks that followed become months and I become still and robotic, drifting from treatment to treatment, devoid of emotion.
Then one night, in a defining moment, we made our niyah for Hajj, my journey, not just to the holy lands, but my soul’s journey back to Allah. For somewhere in between the treatments, I had lost a nearness to him; in my robotic quest for a medical cure, I had lost the conviction that He was the only cure. So my spiritual path meandered and made its way, not only to the Ka’bah, but to Allah and my complete submission to Him.
I completed a walking Hajj, alhamdulillhah, proudly carrying the flag of the travel group, the flag to me symbolising not only fighting cancer but fighting for and upholding my spirituality, for it was that which gave me the physical strength I needed.
I have been told that, if my du’as are not answered in this world, that something better awaits me in the Hereafter and that those who are tested have been chosen to be close to Allah (SWT) and to exercise patience.
“Verily, with hardship, there is ease…” (Qur’an 94:6)
My conviction in this was tested in the ensuing months by more treatments of a harsher kind. Treatments which humbled me to the core of my being. I lost not only all my hair but all of my vanity. And to rid oneself of vanity is to be humbled like a tree stripped of its leaves, exposed to the elements. However, after the winter, the tree emerges stronger and more grounded.
I was grounded and my roots spread deep beneath the soil of Imaan and Taqwah and they strengthened me and I survived radiation, chemotherapy as well as brain surgery and still I stand exposed to the wind but stronger.
Cancer, this word that I had feared, became my gift and it became my key, unlocking a new world of opportunities I would not have had the good fortune to experience.
It opened my eyes to a community needing assistance. Eyes closed to the gratitude we owe for every limb, muscle and movement we so effortlessly make without a thought that, every second, only Allah (SWT) makes it possible.
“And if you would count the graces of Allah, never could you be able to count them” (Qur’an 31:20)
Through this gift of cancer, I have had to sacrifice a job, once loved, but I know now that I am destined for greater, more meaningful work, work to help shape a path of inspiration and hope and to provide assistance to those in need.
On this perfect summer’s day, I sit and reflect in complete submission and acceptance of Allah’s will and decree and I have no fear for tomorrow and what it holds as I know it has been ordained long ago. The ink is dry and the pages have been written. And I am no longer imprisoned by fear but free in enlightenment.
“Verily from Allah we come and to Him we must return.”