Ok, so here I am in Shifa Hospital, (Islamabad’s) Day Care, (male ward) on 25th of October 2021. Yes, it is quite awesome that it is on the month which is celebrated for breast cancer. I’ve even made an IGTV video for its awareness for early detection on Instagram. Basically, it is the same for all cancers. Anyway, you hear enough about these things. So, I won’t bore you (or myself) with all those details. I’ll share with you my own observations and feeling about it, to date.
My latest meeting with Dr. Farrukh, chemo therapist:
Before every chemo (a couple of days earlier,) specific blood tests – or any other tests – suggested by your doctor, are taken and timed so that these will be ready for the doc to see before the chemo. So, I got the person to do home service and take my blood sample from home, then it gets automatically uploaded to my MR. No. which is available to the doctors in the hospital. All set.
Waliya and I went to the doc and had a meeting. It is important to not go alone on such meetings, so that your friend or caretaker daughter can be a witness to what is being said, and can help in suggesting questions to ask, etc. Also, she can help in remembering what was said. He was out of office to meet a serious patient, so we waited. Flash backs were coming to me, of my first meeting with him, when my friend Amber Rasheed Gilani, took myself, Waliya and Faizan to his office for the first time. I remember the strange dazed feelings I felt, a bit numb, yet thanking Allah for giving me such a friend who had gone down this journey so successfully, and took time out to be with me on this very important meeting. She has a great sense of humor and is just the person you need at such times.
The first meeting with doctors:
So, when Ambereen took me to Dr. Farrukh the first time, I was surprised to see that I wasn’t affected by those boards outside reading ‘Oncology’, as a patient. I was very fine with it. Naturally I knew, and was ready and happy to be starting to take the steps to overcome this dreaded illness. I watched her smartly take us inside through a much shorter route, by talking the guards out of stopping us, and we arrived at the office.
I found the doctor, (around fifty-five, looking like thirty eight,) He is so jolly and pleasant. Who, but a Chemo therapist understands better what his patients are going through? To witness all that on a daily basis and to keep one’s jovial personality takes an effort. But it is worth it, because you know you are making the patient feel better. More important, to keep his own feeling of wellness. So, it was an instant ‘click’ for me with him. I was glad I’d be seeing more of his smiling face. He obviously knows his job, bringing my friend back to zero from stage four cancer.
This is what Dr. Farrukh told me:
- Leave the treatment to me. Just follow what we say to you.
- You focus on staying happy.
- Mind your diet, and do not eat out. Only take home-cooked meals. Have organic foods, avoid broiler chickens, have a lot of vegetables and fruits.
- Keep yourself hydrated with water and fresh juices.
- Take small meals, more frequently.
- Negative effects of chemo:
- Your nails turn black or may become ugly.
- You will lose your hair, on head and rest of body.
- Your liver can get damaged with our treatment.
- Inner lining of mouth, stomach walls and intestines start shedding, affecting the food digestion.
- Your sense of taste changes, you find that everything tastes really bad.
- Due to the test results, he decided to do the chemo first. Mainly because of cancer cells in my lymph nodes in my arm pit near the lump.
- The usual program is to do 6 or 8 chemo cycles first, three weeks (21 days) apart. Then surgery, and radiation.
- This Breast Cancer is the most curable.
- People usually judge by which stage you are in, but there is more to it.
- He specially pointed out to me to avoid meeting other patients, as each case is different. So, why keep comparing with others? When your own case is another unique case.
- Each patient’s chemo is different and the medications and their side-effects are different too. More than that, how your own body will react to it will be different too. Each to his own.
- Do not take any other medications without taking consent from the Chemo-Therapist.
After my five Chemo Cycles I’ll add these points:
You know, I like to consider my whole self: Physical, Spiritual, Intellectual, Social/emotional, and financially. So here it goes:
- Try to do as much exercise as possible. Preferably, walk twenty minutes a day – even if it is in bits and pieces. It could be ten minutes at a time.
- You will feel more breathless and tired. When you do, stop and rest.
- Listen to your body.
- Stay hydrated. Have a minimum of eight glasses of water daily.
- Have small meals at a time, focusing on fruits and vegetables only. In my case, I couldn’t take any raw vegetables in salads or raw fruits. I had get them steamed before having them.
- Put lotion, petroleum jelly or oils on your skin to keep yourself in best form.
- Have green tea as often as possible.
- Focus you diet on vegetables, fruits and legumes or daals. Do not take sugar at all, replace it with brown sugar, honey and other alternatives.
- Freeze and grate whole lemons and sprinkle on every meal, before having it.
- Avoid eating out. Only have home made foods.
- I made a point of taking a walk during breaks in chemo. I’d say my prayers, and walk in the corridors for a while to keep up my step count of the day. Here you see me chatting with a friend while walking.
- I had sought out guidance from Mufti Salahuddin, in Islamabad. He is husband of my colleague in Sheikh Zayed International Academy. He suggested that I read Surah Fateha 41 times between sunnat and farz of Fajar prayers. (It’s okay if you wake up later and say the prayers later on. A scholar friend of mine said, ‘there is no ‘qaza’ of Fajr.’) Keep a bottle of water beside you, and read the surah while looking at the water, keeping the cap open. You can blow into it – or not. So, in this way you are ‘meditating’ the words into the water and drink this water during that day. Do this for forty-one days.
- After isha prayers he asked me to read this ayat (23:14) also for 41 times. I know, it sounds horrendous. But when you get going, it is done within ten to fifteen minutes. You will feel great after doing this. You are to do it for 41 days. (It is okay if there are a few gaps due to your ill health. )
- Besides this, the Mufti had put dumm on the can of olive oil I had sent him. So, after all the readings, I put a few drops of that oil over the affected parts.
- Listen to Surah Rehman at least once a day, (up to three times.)
- Continue with reading of Holy Quran on a daily basis even if it is only a few pages, with meanings. Start it end to end. You can also use YouTube or Audio from your phone, but do it end to end.
- Names of Allah – YouTube has some excellent videos of these with meanings.
- Do pray to Allah.
- Repeat, Iyya ka na bodo, wa iyya kanastaeen. (a line from Surah Fateha.) (‘It is you alone we worship, and you alone we ask for help.’) As often as possible.
- Read Namaz-e-hajit with the special prayer. My friend Farkhanda Niazi, specially came over to show me how to do it in a special way. She said it is the same as given in 9th point, at end of book Shahab Namah, by Qudratullah Shahab. He has given different ways in which he kept his spiritual connection alive.
- Farkhanda Niazi, my friend, went further on to tell me, ‘Pray to Allah that, ‘this illness is like a mountain for me, only you can splinter it asunder, forever from my body. Please remove this illness from my body as you are the only one who can do it.’ (Aiy meray Rab, yeh beemari meray liye pahar jaisi hai, tu hi issay raiza raiza kar sakta hai, hamesha kay liye’ ) After this, read Allah’s names with meaning, in most names you will find healing words.
- She went on to say that before eating anything, say in your heart, that without Allah’s permission, nothing that I eat can harm me. O’ Allah protect me from any harm coming to me through my food.
- Do continue with charity work that you normally do, in fact increase it.
- Note for Non-Muslims: Please do reach out to experts in spiritual field and try your meditations on a daily basis.
- Remember that your mind is your biggest ally. You’ve got to keep it free of negativity of any type. Stay away from disturbing news, and getting involved in its discussions. Step away from people who are argumentative or make you feel de-energized. This is why it is best not to share the news about your cancer with everyone. Many of our people are inconsiderate and say things that will make you feel bad.
- ‘Only think about the illness for 30 % of your time, which includes the care you need to take of yourself for your treatment. Which includes the food etc. Frankly I don’t even think for this amount! I’m too busy spending my time on the other work, which I need to do.
- Accept that you will be totally useless for a few days, in these 21 days. It is okay, relax and keep your mind relaxed. In my case, I’m 100% fine on first three days after Chemo. So, I carry on as usual then. In fact I’m even more mentally active. My worst days are the fourth and fifth day after the chemo. So, I’ve noted the days, and know that when the steroids get reduced, the body will feel strange. I must keep more hydrated as ever. Flush out those chemicals from inside you.
- I’m a people person, so I arrange meetings or video chats with my friends. Mostly one-on-one sessions. Don’t prolong it.
- Always meet people and family members, with mask on. Also maintain social distancing. Whoever comes near you, ask them to wear a mask. In a way, I’m so lucky getting my cancer during Covid 19, everyone is wearing masks and staying at least six feet apart. So, social distancing is easily possible. Yes, the pictures are taken for a second without the mask, and then we would revert to original spacing and masks.
- Yes, I do talk to those friends of mine who have Cancer, but only the positive ones. When I’m very fine, then I talk to those friends, whose cases are not going too well. Because I want to lift them up too. Be careful not to talk to them, when you are yourself feeling low.
- Perhaps more than anything, this disease hits you financially the most. Its treatment is expensive. So you’ve got to have this worked out. Make your arrangements, (after all, nothing is more important than your health!) What is your wealth for, anyway? Decide how you will arrange your funds. Do what you have to do, (I sold two of my plots which were the last ones I had.) Do some investment too for it, if the illness gets prolonged.)
- Ideally, hand this over to whoever is to help you, (not all, but as per requirement.)
- Then forget about it, stop stressing over the bills. It will only reduce your chances of recovery.
- In my case, my family pitched in. Each of my three daughters and my mother took on the load, not letting me pay. May Allah bless each of them by giving them great health throughout their lives, and granting them all their wishes.
Stay blessed my wonderful Reader. You all have overwhelmed me with your prayers and good wishes. I love you all, and thank you from the bottom of my heart for all your wonderful love, gifts and prayers.