Inna lilai wa inna ilayhi raji'oon. Her blog moved me so much subhanallah. She was an amazing sister with so much strength and patience mashallah. There are so many sisters who are suffering from cancer but not enough information from an islamic perspective is available to them. Her blog can be a great help for all the sisters who are going through the difficulties of cancer insha-Allah.
One of her very close friend Umm Farouk wrote “I loved this sister more than I can ever express. She left behind a husband and two small children, along with hundreds of people whose lives she touched in the best ways.I ask all of you who knew her to write about her, tell the stories and preserve them, so her children will have a treasure of remembrances to read when they are older. They will want to know who she was.”
I am new to this blogging phenomenon, although one of my best friends has been keeping her own blog (and it is quite popular) for years now. So I guess we could start off with an introduction. My name is UmmZakaria, I am a 32 year old American Muslimah, mother of two sweet toddlers, and a recent "diagnosee" of inflammatory breast cancer.
You know, I really have always been a healthy person. Other than pregnancy related visits, or complications from pregnancy, I had never been a patient in a hospital, alhamdullilah. So when in September of 2008 I had beginning symptoms of IBC, I was not seriously alarmed. I called the doctor for an appointment, and many Dr. appointments and one month later from the first symptoms, I was diagnosed with breast cancer that was almost at stage 4. Alhamdullilah, alhamdullilah, alhamdullilah, I have to say, what a blessing that this cancer did not reach stage four. This specific kind of cancer is so aggressive that it can do in one month what most breast tumors would take years to do (but I will get into the specifics of my diagnosis later.)
Sure, I wanted to start this blog to shine a light on breast cancer for Muslim women who usually do not discuss such things. However, the medical side can be found on countless websites. I think its important for Muslimahs with cancer to talk with other Muslim women about how to deal with cancer and how to deal with the treatment for it. This illness that can zap you and make you feel that you want to give up(And if the illness doesn't zap you, the treatment definitely will.)
Maybe in sharing our experiences we can really focus on our faith, and focus on devotion and purifying our intentions for Allah's sake to claw our way through treatment, and kick this cancer in the butt.
I pray for all who read this to always be healthy and not to ever have to face cancer, and I ask Allah, The Lord of the great throne to heal all those Muslim women who are currently fighting cancer.
Thursday, December 4, 2008
So, the major thought on my mind this week has been, are we really supposed to hide the fact that we have this sickness? I realize that talking about our private parts is taboo, but we are sick, and people can learn methods of early detection by talking about this. I was told by a radiologist that there was a patient with the exact condition I have, and she was only 14 years old. 14! 1-4! I mean, how many of us have taught the young teens in our families about the subject of breast health? Do they know what a self breast exam is, or is this just something that we should not talk about. This can save their life. If a woman has no idea the general state of her breast, she will not feel a lump or tissue changes when they happen. The worst thing for breast cancer is to go unchecked.
Can we not discretely teach the women, both young and old, in our communities about this without loosing our modesty? The answer must be yes. We have to do this. It is a duty.
Friday, December 5, 2008
Honestly, It is not that I mind the question really, It only means that people care. The problem is, as a person going through chemotherapy, I am not even sure how I feel. Reality is that how I feel changes every five seconds. The fluctuation is so much, that within ten minutes, if I answer the question ten times, I may give ten different answers. So I have reverted to the failsafe "alhamdullilah!" Can't go wrong there now, can you?
I feel that I push myself way beyond what my actual abilities are right now, or rather beyond what I really should do. The reason why is I really feel terrible to be looked at with pity. I don't want for people to feel sorry for me. I guess I feel that Allah has tested me with this for some reason, and if that is so, people should not feel sorry for me. I'm tough, and I believe in what Allah has for me. In order to minimize the people who become sad, I push through the pain and this actually becomes a big help in day to day progress in the fight against this illness. I think it also helps others increase their faith in the fact that Allah can truly make the hardest things easy.
I ask Allah to make things easy for all the Muslims in whatever hardship they find themselves in. Ameen.....
Sunday, December 7, 2008
This is the first year my children are old enough to really get what Eid is, but I think we will be spending it at home. I will do my best to make them feel it is a special day. I feel I will be too tired to drag them around and watch them as they run through crowds of people.
Almost two weeks since my last chemo treatment, so I will do my best to talk myself into a high level of energy, so I can get some long put-off chores done. I am and always have been a major procrastinator. I do not need a reason to put anything off. Now, I have an automatic excuse for putting off everything.
Is there a cure for procrastination? I have asked many people who are not procrastinators this questions, and let me tell you, no light was shined on the problem with their answer. Almost in the same exact words their advice is to do whatever you have to do as soon as you know you need to do it. As self-elected queen of procrastinators everywhere, I tell you organized and severly punctual people that this advice is hilarious. It is like telling an anorexic "just eat" or telling a pyromaniac to put down the matches. I have come to believe that procrastination is really similar to an addiction. I think the only true cure for any major personality flaw or addiction is a complete new way of life, and none of this comes overnight. Living an Islamic lifestyle definitely is a key to success in getting rid of bad habits.
May Allah make us all productive and energetic during this Eid, and may He help us all to put our best Islamic foot forward....
Monday, December 8, 2008
So far the best piece of advice I was given from anyone, was from a nurse in the hospital who had breast cancer that recurred twice since her original diagnosis. She spoke with such a positive and beautiful spirit. She told me that I should never focus on the big picture. Seems at first to be really odd advice. It seems focusing on the big picture, getting rid of the cancer all together would help a person in their treatment. She went on to explain that the best way to get through treatment is to focus only on the actual treatment you are having.
So only think of getting through each chemotherapy treatment, or whatever you are in at that point. Now this makes too much sense. Focusing on the big picture, in most cases, is tough because treatment in most cases is sooo long. For me, for instance, treatment will be at least a year, then a ton of tests for years after this. Thinking of each chemo cycle, means only getting through three weeks at a time. Energy seems to be more focused this way and you focus on getting over each small hill, instead of climbing the mountain all at once.
For me at least, this makes so much sense, and it is helping me to keep a positive outlook. I deal with only side effects, illness, tiredness, and the fear of the actual process I am undergoing. At this point, I am staying focused, and refuse to get bogged down in how long this whole process will last.
I thank Allah for putting that nurse in my path. She was not someone I would have met in treatment. A lab tech who took my blood asked me why I was always in the lab for blood tests, and I told her my condition. She arranged to have me meet this nurse to talk to her the next time I came for blood testing. Allah puts people in our paths everyday. Wisdom comes from all places. We should keep our minds and hearts opened to this.
I know that Allah gives us tests to see if we will have patience, and at the same time, for us to learn patience. Seems to me though, without patience you cannot learn it. It takes so much patience just to get through the process of learning patience.
Thursday, December 11, 2008
It is well known that chemo affects teeth- only emergency dental work is allowed. How about this one: As I sit to get a filling of a painful cavity, the doctor numbs the area and starts to drill. I FEEL EVERYTHING! So he stops, takes time to numb me agin, much better this time until I cant feel much of anything, drills again, and I FEEL EVERYTHING! He numbs me again and lets it set in, comes back, and by this time, I know I bit myself, but no clue what I bit because I can't feel anything in my mouth. He starts to drill again, and I FEEL EVERYTHING! Sooooooo, they pack in the cavity with a temporary filling and tell me to come back again soon and we would try again.
I asked what was going on, and the dentist said this is a complication of the chemotherapy. I haven't done much research on it yet, I just got home with my swollen jaw, but it seems weird. So basically, I have to keep going back while they drill a little each time until they get the whole cavity. OUCH!
And the fun continues... Alhamdulillah.
Thursday, January 1, 2009
The break is about over now, and I am preparing for both returning to school, as well as the weekly chemo schedule I will start next week. In getting ready for school starting back and after spending all of this time in self-reflection, I am making the commitment to myself to take more advantages of the blessings that Allah puts in front of me.
The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Make the most of five things before five others: life before death, health before sickness, free time before becoming busy, youth before old age, and wealth before poverty.”
I think if we all posted this hadith somewhere to prioritize the things we do daily, we would get so much more accomplished. In general, I think that we focus too much on what is wrong, and not enough on the potential and abilities we have. So then, by saying we are getting older, we feel sick, we have no time, or we do not have enough money, what we do is really enable ourselves not to be doers. In all truth, the people I know who do the most have excuses, but don't make them.
So I am making the intention to strive to be like these people who do not make excuses, and I will do what is in my power to take advantage of my life and the blessings in it.
Friday, January 2, 2009
So now I feel almost ready to get back to school in a few days, after a couple of intense days of writing lesson plans and grading papers that is. I really can feel that so many people are making dua for me. So many things about this whole ordeal have been made so easy, and It helps to know so many people are in my corner.
The latest news from my tests that I had last week are as follows:
I had a new mammogram and ultrasound, and all the doctors and nurses said they have never seen progress like this after only a couple of months of chemotherapy. Two months ago, the cancer was in all my breast tissue, the skin and at least two lymph nodes under the arm. The breast tissue that showed cancer was 11cm across, and from the side view, the size of a baseball. (IBC is not like typical breast cancer in that it doesn't show a lump, all the breast tissue becomes infected.) So last week, I was shown a side by side mammogram (before and after) and now the size of the breast tissue that is involved is the size of a little green pea. There is also no longer any sign that the lymph nodes are involved.
This is great news, Alhamdullilah. I was really worried that they would come back and say there was no longer any sign of cancer. At first, it would seem that one would want to have no sign of cancer. However, knowing that no matter what they said, I would still have to continue with the same treatment, I would have been so deflated to know there was nothing to attack. Going through chemotherapy, it is much easier for me to pump myself up and know that the treatment is doing something.
So, on Wednesday, I start my weekly chemo and herceptin. 12 weeks. I realize that I still have a long road ahead, but now I am putting my focus on just getting through the next 12 weeks. I ask you all to continue to keep me strong with your dua...
Sunday, February 22, 2009 Tuesday, March 3, 2009
So back tomorrow for more chemo. And they blew so many veins in the hospital, that I have no idea where they will be able to do the chemo. If I were to play the if game, I would rewind and have them give me a port, so that my veins would still be slightly intact. 4 treatments to go, and then on to the next leg of the journey. I am happy to be home, asking all of you for your good thoughts and du'aa.
Monday, March 16, 2009
I have to make all the big decisions about surgery this week on Thursday, and for this i keep constantly asking Allah's guidance. I just need to realize that whatever I am doing, it will be the best for my chances of recovery and no recurrence, so whatever the bad that comes with it, I will just have to deal. Is it naive to believe that the doctors will tell me what my best options are?I am sure there are those out there who would advise me not to have treatment at all, or at least not to trust the doctors. I know there are even those out there who would advise others against chemotherapy. I do not belittle their concerns, I can say firsthand that chemo is not healthy. On the other hand, with an aggressive form of cancer, time is not abundant to explore options and to try things that are not proven to work.
Is it short sighted to believe in myself and those around me that no matter what is done, I will pull together with those close to me and just grin and bear it? I don't think so, and until someone wants to tell me otherwise, I will just keep grinning through my last treatments, and probably straight into the operating room. I have found, when you are happy and joking with nurses and doctors, you actually get remembered more, better treatment, and alot of extra kindness.
Hope to update you all after thursday's appointment with dates and recovery times of surgery....
Thursday, March 19, 2009
Still, no final decisions have been made for the long run, everything remains a big maybe. Well things for the 14th of April are final, but more than that, no decisions, it all depends on pathology. One great thing that came out today was that as soon as the surgeon saw me, she said that my swollen arm was lymph edema, and that i need to start physical therapy to get it under control before surgery. I am hopeful now that this problem will be controlled soon.
They said the stay in the hospital for mastectomy patients is one night, or possibly two if you are really doing poorly. I really hope i can whine enough to get to stay two nights. I cant fathom going home after only one night in the hospital. With my two little kids here, I can imagine they will be jumping all over me and making me crazy. I think i would stay a week if they would let me.
Short post tonight, just wanted to keep all you inquisitive minds up to date.
Monday, April 13, 2009
I got through the chemotherapy treatments by telling myself over and over "it will be over soon." I tried to convince myself that once the treatments were over , i would begin to feel like myself again. This couldn't be the case when i think of it now. You can't take this tough medicine, which generally poisons you, for 6 months and expect all the side effects to vanish over night. The fatigue seems to be dissipating, but the other side effects seem to be growing, and new ones pop up each day.
I start the next chapter in denial. The title of the chapter is "After the surgery, things will return to normal." As I realize this is most likely not the case, It is what i need to hear right now. I will continue to tell myself this, as long as it works. Well, until i realize that i need a new chapter-" After radiation, things will return to normal." Ha! In all reality my friends, I really do believe that there is no such thing as normal, and we just do our best to cope with the changes to our ever-evolving lives. May Allah help us all (especially me) to cope to the best of our ability without whining or complaining.
Saturday, April 18, 2009 Saturday, June 27, 2009
I have the key to sanity and well being for cancer patients-LAZINESS and PROCRASTINATION. When I was going through the pain of chemo, that terrible intense bone pain that some drugs cause, I would sit in my chair and what I would do is try to visualize myself rolling around on the floor pulling out my hair and screaming. Well, after a few minutes of this, it seemed quite asinine, and I repeated this every time the pain got too bad to handle. If i ever became sad, I would sit and visualize myself sobbing and seriously loosing it, until it seemed almost comical. Its alot easier for the lazy person to sit and imagine something instead of getting up and actually doing it. So laziness actually saved me alot of grief.
Lately, I feel at the end of my rope, like I am on the edge of the mental breakdown cliff and I am ready to take a dive. The visualization of the mental breakdown doesn't work so well. I tried to visualize myself in the straight jacket in the white padded room, bouncing around and banging into the walls. This didn't make me feel any better, go figure? So, I decided I would have to get a new method of getting through the latest depressed feelings.
What has seemed to work so far is to do the following: When I start to go nuts, I tell myself, not today, I will allow you to break down tomorrow. The next day I say the same thing. Who knew that being queen of procrastination would ever come in handy?
You know, I know there is light at the end of the tunnel, and at times I feel close to seeing that light, but other times I feel that this is lasting and will last forever. If I am not being treated for it in the future, I fear I will have the constant nagging fear that recurance is on the doorstep. But you know, instead of dwelling on this tonight, I think I will sleep and dwell on it tomorrow. Procrastination wins once more.
It's like I always say: Why should I bother to do today what I can easily put off till tomorrow?
Friday, July 3, 2009
They never say, "oh I see you added this new med, why? What new symptoms are you having to need this?" I see so many doctors, and they all treat different side effects. WHY do they make me take the time to fill this out if no one is checking it.
So I have this bright idea. I think next time I go to the doctor I will add 2 new meds: the first will be a dime bag of weed per day and the second will be 2 hits of crack rock per week. Then I will know ford sure how many people look at these sheets. Now I must add that I have never and will never have marajuana or crack in my life. Just for all you out there with good suspicions.
With a little over a week left in this blasted radiation, I really am beginning to understand discomfort. I am happy to be at the end of the road with it, so that all my wounds can hopefully begin to heal up once its over. The light at the end of the cancer treatment tunnel is starting to shine a little bit brighter. I feel I might just make it out of here. Alhamdullilah for everything!
Friday, July 10, 2009
So the pearl of the day was- " Well, you can't finish something if you don't start it." I was told this as I was foot dragging before this last round of new radiation that was to begin today. Seven more radiation treatments like the one today, and radiation is over, bi'ithnillah. So this pearl of wisdom seems so obvious and simple, but in its simplicity, it hit me in such a deep way. Maybe it was the new sleeping pills, or the pain pills, or a combination of both, but I had a clear moment.
I ask Allah to surround us all with good friends, and as for my good friend, I ask Allah to give her all the best in this life and the hereafter.
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
So for now I will focus on making a list of all the things that I am getting back to. I am sure everyone is with me in my fight back to normalcy.
Friday, September 11, 2009
They have treatment for all this and they are treating it quite aggressively. The treatment is not fun or a day at the park, but at least there is a treatment. I am dealing with it, it just still feels like a bump in the road, even though it is happening to me, It feels like it is a movie I am watching. I will just continue to remind myself that I am way too lazy to get upset over this. And I will continue to visualize all the nutty things some people might do to despair in this situation so that I can laugh and not do them myself.
I will up my supplications for you all in this time of hardship, hoping Allah will give you all exactly what you need to be successful. I ask an extra dua or 2 from each of you durring this last part of Ramadan. I ask Allah to not let this hinder me from being a good person to others, a good muslim for myself, and a productive and competent mother and teacher.
Allah is the best of healers, and the best of judges
Friday, September 18, 2009
So all this in mind, I would like to say to all of my dear friends that I trully hope are praying for me and thinking of me: every thing that each one of you did for me in this past year meant so much, even if it was something that I did not know of. The meals, the visits(even from over the ocean), the innumerable help through prayer and sisterhood, it all added up to a year that I flew through with minimal discomfort.
I love you all, and you each know what you mean to me. I don't wish to be a martyr, a saint, or a hero, I just want to solve this problem and get back to solving all of yours too! Hehehe!
Friday, October 16, 2009
So now to the rare coincidence.... I have an uncle in Seattle who had a bout with melanoma about 10 years ago. It was removed and he was in full remission. The same week I was diagnosed with brain mets, so was he. He started new treatments, although different treatments due to the type of brain tumor he had. The doctors were saying that his treatment was going fine. Yesterday he woke up, my aunt heard him make a weird noise and went into other room to see him, and he had died. Just like that. He was not having symptoms that I know of. I know that his case has nothing to do with mine, and we are not even related by blood, however, it just seems to hit a little close to home today.
I guess in all actuality it should be a reminder for me to take each day, minute, prayer as if it may be my last. We have to take the most out of our time, Allah has already written how much time we have left, and there is nothing we can do to change that. I am at complete peace with that.....