We often overlook the little things in life, and we are always looking for something better, something that’s worthwhile. We indulge in great food, holidays, complain and whine about what we don’t have. We’re surrounded by people that love us, yet we find flaws about ourselves and show lack of appreciation towards things that actually matter. We’ve become comfortable. Everything changes once reality hits, we forget that we can get sick and we will realize that all the heartbreak in the world can’t compare to this.
We’re dedicating this post to our first Muslyfe Warrior, Khadijah Rahman, a cancer survivor. We sat down with her as she shared her experience with cancer, words of inspiration, wisdom and hope. For many who have been diagnosed with cancer, or knows someone who’s currently going through treatments, you may find this a great source of comfort and support.
Could you give a brief introduction to our readers about yourself?
Well, I’m turning 26 this year and I’m the youngest among my siblings. I just graduated last year and I love traveling! But right now I’m more focused on taking care of myself rather than anything else. Trying to recover myself from one’s life biggest learning experience.
What kind of cancer were you diagnosed with?
It’s a pretty long name and I’m sure not everybody is familiar with this because I certainly wasn’t at first. Its Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma. It’s blood cancer and it’s a rare case in Brunei for people as considerably young as me. It’s medically called Diffuse Large B-cell Lymphoma and I was on stage 1B. It was pretty bulky when we found it, of about 11 centimeters near my heart around the aorta.
When did you find out about your cancer and how was it detected?
I had coughs for months which started in February last year in 2017. It gotten better for a week, but it kept coming back. It was quite chronic, but just like everyone else, I thought it was something normal. However, it got so severe, I would get a fever and that I couldn’t hold it but shed tears in pain.
It worsened by May where I started to lose my voice, but still, being my normal self, I thought it was something not out of the ordinary like how we’d get sore throats and its side effects. I also started having chest pains, which was really painful I feel like I couldn’t move. Looking in so much pain, my brother-in-law brought me to see a doctor, but the doctor said it looked normal.
As the days went by, I started to experience gastric pains and I had trouble swallowing. My gut told me to see another doctor and requested for an endoscopy to see if it really was gastric, but after receiving the result in two weeks, nothing was found. Looking like it wasn’t something normal, my doctor wasn’t satisfied with the results, so he sent me in for an X-ray. That’s how they found something was swollen on my left side.
I had to do a CT scan and an ultrasound. The doctor told me that they’re going to do a biopsy which means they’re going in internally to take a sample from my swollen chest. They wanted to find out the cause, and I was conscious during the procedure. You could only imagine how painful it was. That is when they brought me the news that have changed my life.
What was your first reaction when you were told that you were diagnosed with cancer?
When the doctor told me I was diagnosed with cancer, my family was devastated and I can see it from their faces, no matter how much they tried to hide it. Meanwhile, I felt… empty. I didn’t know how to feel. I really did not know how to feel. How am I suppose to feel?
How did you tell your whole family about it?
Well.. my family and I didn’t actually tell my mom. We kept it a secret from her. I know my mom, we know our mom. I knew she would break on her knees and cry. I didn’t want her to be sad. I didn’t want her to cry. So, I went on a white lie and told her it was a blood infection and nothing serious.
After a while, we all knew we couldn’t keep up with the lies and she would find out eventually, especially once the chemotherapy starts and it’s going be harder. My father too couldn’t tell her and honestly, no one had the heart to. So, he decided to bring her to a clinic and told her to get a medicine for Lymphoma, which I was diagnosed with. My mom, who was quite clueless with what it is, went over the counter and asked to a surprised nurse who told her they don’t have a medicine for that type of cancer. Shocked and heartbroken are two words most often being understated by how she felt. I couldn’t bare it. She would often cry but did not show me. Nothing in this world can be so heartbreaking than seeing your mom cry.
How did you feel about the treatments you had to undergo?
I had six cycles of chemotherapy and I never knew how to feel being in this treatment at first. I never expected of anything to be completely honest. After being on the first chemo, I found it being the hardest for me until I feel like I wanted to give up. I had no energy, I didn’t want to eat and I lost a lot of weight. It made me feel weak and my immune system was getting lower and lower everyday.
Standing still still, I had to do something. So, I tried to do my own research to know more about this cancer taking over my body. I want to know how to take care of my body. I tried to reach out to people in person and on Instagram (privately) that undergo cancer but still, I couldn’t find answers. Finally, I joined an online forum with people going through the same rough patch. That is when I know, I wasn’t alone. I was never alone.
Were there any side effects from your treatment, and what did you do?
After the first treatment, I remember washing my hair and running my fingers through it, it started to fall out. I freaked out, but I knew it’s going to happen and I had to accept it. Along the way, I gained my spirit back, and knew what to expect for the next chemotherapy cycle. I also didn’t eat much, I would throw up every time I tried, so I always tried the hardest to eat a lot of fruits and drank a lot of water.
Other than that, I got dizzy, fatigue and blurry vision. It also happened that I lost my voice. The doctor checked with the specialist and found out that my voice box was swollen, and that it might take 6 to 12 months to cure it. That’s a long time to not speak and I was so depressed. I kept telling myself to be patient. I couldn’t talk and the least I could do was whisper. I wasn’t happy with it. So I did my own research, I wanted to be better.
I drank a lot of water and forced myself to speak up, reciting the Al-Quran, reading the surah and Alhamdulillah in just one month, my voice came back. It felt like a miracle, even my doctor was surprised. Allah is watching over me. I practiced reciting these eight surahs from the Al-Quran. It’s believed to be able to help destroy the cancer cells and heal a sick person and I hope this can benefit everyone who’s reading this. If the patient isn’t able to read, his or her parents, siblings or anyone else can help read it too. With God’s will, we can be healed from the sickness.
Salawat on Prophet Muhammad x10
- Surah Al-Maidah: Ayat 82-91
- Surah Al-Araf: Ayat 70-81
- Surah Ar-Ra’d: Ayat 16-28
- Surah Al-Anbiyaa’: Ayat 38-50
- Surah Asy Syu-ara: Ayat 185-227
- Surah Az Zummar: Ayat 42-52
- Surah Ghafir: Ayat 67-77
- Surah Az-Zukhruf: Ayat 52-70
Home remedies that I did are eating boiled soursop every morning and drinking beetroot juice everyday. I used to love eating raw food like sashimi, anything grilled and beef, but now, I’m cutting it all down. I stray myself from consuming beef, raw food, processed food and junk food. So, I had fruits, vegetables, fish and onion as an alternative. Truth to be told, I never liked eating all this, it was never in my diet. I now see how important it is to include fruits and vegetables in my everyday meal.
SUPPORT AND STRENGTH
What is your advice for someone who has a loved one who has just been diagnosed with cancer?
Be there for them. Tell them how strong they are. People need to listen to this no matter how many times they’ve been told. We all need to be reminded of this. Make them believe that they can actually fight it. There’s still hope and don’t ever give up. My friends, too, kept me motivated and it gave me a glimpse of hope.
Deeja, you are strong, I know you can fight this
How did you find the strength to go through the treatments and what kept you going?
What really makes me want to be better is my mom. Always been and always will. Seeing her at the age of 62 and had to carry me, bathe me, take care of me. Waking up every midnight till morning just to pray for my health. I didn’t want to see her sacrifice her time just for me. I feel sad, knowing my mom had to take care of me. There is certainly nothing wrong with that but as I get older, I realized she gets older too and that I am supposed to take care of her. My mother. Not the other way around.
I remember every chemotherapy cycle, they had to send me off to the chemotherapy room, I smiled at them every time I went in, but, truthfully, I’m broken inside. I tried to hide my weakness away. I didn’t cry because of the fact that I had cancer or I had to undergo horrendous chemo treatments every few weeks, I cried because it breaks my heart to see my parents forcing out a big smile with their red and teary eyes. My parents, especially my mom, has always been my backbone and keeps me strong.
My advice to all of you undergoing any life trials, if you feel like giving up, think about your loved ones, think about the pain you could do to others if you don’t take care of yourself.
Now that you’re cancer-free, what do you want to do to embark in this journey of life you have?
I think it’s too soon to jot down things I want to do as of this moment but one thing for sure is that I want to perform umrah. Before I do anything, I want to go there, but maybe after I fully recovered myself. Honestly, I’m still too scared to go far from where I am now, but anything for serenity, right?
What would you tell a person who just learned of their cancer diagnosis or any other life-threatening illness?
” Appreciate, be patient, redha”
Learn to appreciate your health. I now definitely appreciate my voice, which I lost for seven months! Some people, not excluding myself, tend to get stressed out about their life, with the things they can’t get. One thing I’d like to tell you is never ever get things for granted, think of those that face a much worser problems. Think of things you have that somebody else are dying to have. You may be in pain, but there’s someone out there in much worse pain.
Have patience. Always be patient and never give up. Healing takes time, even though it hurts, but I believe that good things really come to those that wait. Make an effort, find any other alternative methods to find the cure, prayers, make supplication, find traditional medicine, ask around. We can’t just depend on science and chemotherapy. Believe in yourself and put faith in what you do.
Redha. Accept the reality and believe in it. Things happen for a reason. I know cancer is a nightmare, but it happens. It has taught me the journey of life, you need to prioritize your life and health. People tend to drive themselves to money, although it is undeniably important, but what is wealth without health?
What advice would you like to give to young adults out there?
The youth tend to overlook the fact that even though we’re young, healthy and we exercise regularly, it would be invincible to get illness. You are wrong. If you ever fall sick, go to your nearest clinic and do a check up. There is no such thing as time wasted on yourself. No one had had cancer in my family, I wouldn’t consider my situation with something that comes with genetics. So, it was really something unexpected.
Take care of yourself, other than exercising, diet is also so important. Life is temporary and let’s make full use of it by taking care of the body we are borrowed with.