This blog post is about how, while avoiding the ‘C’ word of Covid19 in our lives, I ended up in ‘C’ word of Cancer. So, this post is about how I found out about it, and what I learnt which might help you too, if God forbid you or your loved one has to go through it. It is the most common thing these days.
Yes, actually I got Breast cancer. It is as deadly, as Covid19, in fact more so. On 28th of May, 2021, I felt this small lump on right side, I immediately called my friend Amber. (She has just recovered from stage four breast cancer, within a year.)
‘What should I do?’ I asked.
‘Get a mammogram and ultrasound done.’ She said.
So, I went and got it done. There, the radiologist suggested I show this to Dr. Rakshanda, in a nearby clinic. She said, ‘though I’ve never met her, I’ve found her diagnosis 100% accurate.’
So, I did that, and yes, it was cancer, its size was 2.2 cm. So, that’s when my whole life stopped.
Cancer is that monster in our lives, which is lurking behind each one of us. None of us know when and where it can hit us.
Now, six months later, I’m clean from cancer again, I am ready to share my story with you. I’ve learnt about it my way.
Being positive helps
Here are some points which will help you remain positive through it:
- Know that it is from Allah/God. I was thinking, we never ask Him ‘Why me’ when He is blessing us. No need to ask ‘Why me’ now either! Just know that it is from Him, its’ got to make sense.
- Keep things in proportion; Keep it in its place. 2.2 cms, under the skin, out of over 22 feet of skin of my body. I’m sure, that means that only 1% of my body is affected, so why should I lose my whole life due to it?
- Haroon Sharif gave me best advice:
- He said, ‘it is called a ‘health shock’.
- Prepare yourself to only do 30% of the work that you normally do in your life. Let go of your 70% . (Reminded me of the Pareto’s Law of 20/80)
- Select the 30% of important activities. Out of that 30%, give only 30% of your time to your illness, and its processes. Keep the rest of its’ 70% for healthy activities.
- Focus on getting the best: For treatment, he offered financial help and wanted me to go to Seattle. His brother (and my SIL) Ahmad Bilal was there. ‘You must not worry, just focus on getting the best treatment.’
- LET GO of everything else for the time being. Nothing is more important than one’s health.
- Decide how you will deal with it. This illness is serious stuff – it is a life and death thing. As far as time of death is concerned, we know that it is preordained. Fine. But don’t bring it on yourself Babe, by overthinking. You cope with it yourself, your way. Make your own decisions.
- Make the basic decisions asap:
- Choose the best hospital and oncologist you want to be treated by, base it on successful cases you personally know, which are similar to your case.
- Get the tests done by the chosen hospital.
- Give biopsy samples to two laboratories. When there are two samples, you can compare the two results from different places, then situation is clearer.
- Find your happiness element in every situation:
- Being who I am, first I threw a ‘pre-chemo party.’ Of course, all SOPs were followed. Then I shifted the date for first chemo, so my birthday blast, with Waliya could be done! No compromise on fun times 😉 .
I decided to get treated in my home town, Islamabad. Dr. Rakshanda suggested Shifa International Hospital, and Dr. Hadi the surgeon. Amber took me to meet her Chemo therapist Dr. Farrukh at Shifa hospital.
If you can be in Pakistan with its support system, our helpers at home, and the best medical facilities, it feels great. (Of course the support system has to be controlled, or it can overwhelm you.) So, I didn’t share my situation with everyone.
This decision to get my treatment done in Pakistan was seconded by my friend, Dr. Shahnaz Mian Hamid, she is a doctor and has worked both in USA and here in Pakistan. Recently, while she was in USA, she found out she has cancer, and her treatment has started there. She said ‘you get the same treatment in Pakistan today, as it is anywhere in the world.’
In the end, it is all in God’s Hands, anyway.
Of course, Shaukat Khanum labs were used and the option of getting treatment from their hospital in Lahore, was also considered. But the travel that it would involve made it best to do it in Shifa International Hospital, in Islamabad. You will find it’s link here. So, think carefully what you decide.
As soon as possible. I found out on a Friday, 28th May, 2021, same day it was confirmed for me. Next day, as the weekend began, I drove off with the Haroon family and Sadia, for a trip to Khaira Gali, keeping the news to myself.
I had already got an appointment for Monday, for the tru cut, also, I got the other required tests including the CT scan etc.
Verifying exactly what type it is, takes all those tests, because each result decides how it will be treated. Once you’ve decided about the hospital, it is best to get all tests done from there, as they have their own system.
I know we believe they are filling their pockets (which they are), but we must respect their rules.
Now, remember you will go through the five stages of grief: Denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. You will go through each of these.
If you can start with acceptance, the rest will become easy.
Go to a psychiatrist, or psychologist:
It is natural to have fears. Now, you can find counselling sessions online also. Let him/her help you with the answers to questions about your fears. My only fear was how to break the news to my loved ones. I told him ‘ I’m just glad that if it had to happen, it is me , and not my loved ones. Alhamdolillah! I told him that I’m worried how my loved ones would take it. ‘How do I tell them?’
He said, ‘first you tell them, you felt a lump. Got it tested. Slowly, tell about the result. They will find courage from the way you are coping.’
He added, ‘Even now, you are only worried about them! This is the time in your life, when you’ve got to be selfish. Take care of yourself first. Then, others will also be at peace.’
He agreed with me to not tell my mother. Though I didn’t want to tell my daughters living abroad, he felt I should; saying ‘it is their right.’
This is why it is important to go to professionals.
How to stay happy:
Give yourself lots of good news:
Keep thinking of different ways you are learning to cope better. Dr. Shahid said, ‘tell yourself how much you are improving. Give good news to yourself.’
Avoid negative people and situation:
Just walk out of the room. You cannot afford to be with people who pity you and give negative vibes. So, cut them out. Its the same about situations that stress you out. So, just stop them. This is why it is important to not share the news with everyone, immediately.
Take care of your body to keep your mind sharp:
He went on to say, ‘If you want to think clearly, you have to avoid physical fatigue. If your body is exhausted, how can your mind be fine? So, take care of your body too, while thinking positively.
Get spiritual guidance:
Mufti Salahuddin in Islamabad, suggested Surah Fateha – 41 times – during Fajr prayers. This was to be done while doing a damm in water (for the day) between Sunnat and Farz rakats. He gave me an ayat (23.14 – 41 times) to be read after Isha prayers. (To be done for 41 days.) At first I thought its impossible. Then when I got going, I’m even doing it after its got completed, because it feels so good! 🙂
He did damm on a can of olive oil which I’d massage over the affected area.
I have great faith in his prayers and damm oil, as I’ve tried him out before, for my knee problem here. I’ve still not needed the knee replacement surgery after six years!
My friend Farkhanda Niazi showed me proper way for namaz-e-hajat, as also given in the 9th point in Qudratullah Shahab’s autobiography, at the end in his wazeefas. I’d do this before any special test or chemo cycle.
You can do whatever comes in your comfort zone. Specially if you are a non-Muslim, find any spiritual meditation that gives you peace and tranquility.
Do whatever you love to do.
In my case, I love driving. So, I made sure I drove, as soon as possible after a chemo. I kept the Food Drive going on a daily basis, because I just love it.
We replaced the Bridal projects with more medical cases. During this time we helped Waqas, father of four-year-old Moosa who had brain tumor. Also, we helped get a prosthesis – hand for Shakeel(20-year-old) . (He had lost his right hand.)
You all helped me with these projects. That is what I love. I know we cannot help all, but it makes a difference to those we help.
I also did Tai Chi, sometimes. I walked as much as easily possible. Exercise is a must.
I managed to do several things that gave me a special kick!
1, I sold my plot. In these Covid19 times, it took quite an effort. Alhamdolillah, people cooperated. Even that plot got sold which was almost impossible. I didn’t mind selling at a loss, as I was achieving my goal.
2. Tedx Talks: I was invited, and agreed to speak at the Ted Talks. It was eleven days after my fourth Chemo. The topic was ‘Thriving through Trauma. Hopefully it will get shared in January 2022. It has been sent to their head office in New York.
3. Did my writing too: I made full use of mental clarity when I got it. So, I did manage to write a few blog posts, including these ones. (I know it could be better!) I’d sit in the Day Care during Chemo with my laptop writing my blog posts.
4. Did counselling: I was tickled by this when, I did some counselling sessions. (I felt like telling the girl, that I’ve got cancer and am in middle of its treatment, while I’m listening, and giving you tips on how to deal with your problems!) Alhamdolillah, I could still help others.
Approaching a spiritual guide who can suggest some ways of prayer and recitation of verses from Holy Quran or whichever meditation. This process can give amazing inner tranquility.
As you have seen, I had made arrangements to pay for everything. But my family didn’t give me a chance. In fact two of my friends wanted to pay up also, but I refused. Of course I chipped in for the surgery and other stuff.
Lets round up here:
- Cancer makes you more alive to life, and how precious it is.
- I’ve realized, I’ve become even more daring than before!
- The first thing I did after getting the confirmation, was that I asked my SIL Faizan to hand me a cigarette so I could smoke with him! Hahaha!
- I learnt to accept all the horrid tests. Took them calmly.
As you have guessed, this story has just begun. So, I’m going to share the rest in my upcoming posts.
Stay blessed and protected. 🙂