‘There’s a lump on my breast’
‘Ohh its nothing to worry about, sometimes you can get that on your period, but book a GP appointment just to be certain’
‘There’s a lump on my breast’
‘Sometimes you can get a lump when you’re on your period, it should be fine- these things are normal but ill book you in just to be certain’
‘I have breast cancer’
‘You’re joking right…. Come on your not funny, what did the doctor actually say’
‘I’m not joking, I have cancer’
‘Unfortunately, the scan shows that you have a cancerous lump in your left breast’
‘Don’t worry it’s going to be ok, there’s a huge survival rate with breast cancer. The medicine is very advanced- we can do this. We have to fight mum ok, you can’t give up alright. You’ve got this, you’re the strongest person I know’
“We are waiting for further tests to see what stage the cancer is at. Ideally, we want to be at stage 1 or 2. This means that treatment is an option for you. If you are at stage 4 the cancer is now secondary and has spread from the breast to another organ……… this is not ideal.”
‘What’s wrong mum?’
‘You need to promise me that if I don’t make it you will look after your brother and sisters. You can’t let anything happen to them- you need to raise them. Don’t let anyone take them’
When I found out my mum had cancer I didn’t react. I have never been an emotional person and my mum knew that. Tears were a sign of weakness to me and I couldn’t afford to be weak for my mum- I had to be the strong one. I had always logically approached cancer, I told my mum that as long as there is a treatment for it, we couldn’t give up. We had to keep on fighting. This resilience was my armour.
I have always been religious, I prayed 5 x a day and did the necessary obligations that I was expected to do as a Muslim, but I had never known what true Iman was until I had a conversation with Allah. We were waiting to see the results of the tests which would tell us what stage the cancer was at. This was the only time my armour was dented. I couldn’t show my mum but I was worried, what if it was at stage 4? I couldn’t lose my mum- I needed her. I was only in my twenties and had barely figured out my own life and the possibility of being a guardian to my siblings scared me. I remember the day clearly, it was on a Tuesday and it was in the middle of the night. I was sitting on my prayer mat and I burst into uncontrollable tears.
‘Allah please don’t take my mum, I can’t live without her. I need her so much. Take me instead please’
I was crying so bad I could hardly breathe.
Halfway through my pleading and crying a calmness fell on me. It was almost like an out of body experience.
‘Allah please cure my mum but if death is the best thing to happen to her than I trust your judgement and I will accept it’
After I made that statement, I finally understood what it meant to have Iman and I realised that my mum had it all along. Not once did she complain – every bad news was met with ‘Alhamdulillah’. She accepted her situation and I finally accepted mine. I was no longer angry, my Iman was tested and I had passed.
I remembered the verses from the Quran designed to get us through these moments:
It wasn’t easy for me to accept my situation but when I finally did, I felt a level of accomplishment. I was no longer a slave to my desires and expectations. I finally accepted that if my mum lived this was the best thing that could happen to her, and if my mum died this was the best thing that could happen to her. This was enough to get me through each day.
These are a few questions conducted to help me unpack how I got through one of the most difficult times of my life.
My Imaan before my mum getting ill was very artificial and routine, in the sense that although I prayed 5 x a day and I finished the Mashaf- I have never truly understood that there is a difference between being religious and having unbreakable faith. My Imaan increased when I was faced with a test. I was about to lose the most essential thing in my life and at first, I went through the usual routine of praying for her and giving to charity in her name.
This still did not mean that my Imaan was high. I think I finally understood it when I accepted that death might be a reality and I chose not to be angry anymore.
I understood that Allah truly knows best and my knowledge is limited. Allah would never inflict a calamity on me that I could not endure or that was not good for me. Sure I might not understand logically and rationally but because of my Imaan – it was ok for me not to understand why something had to happen to me. It taught me that once I have genuinely placed my faith in Allah, anything that happens in my life- I could overcome.
My mum has dramatically influenced my deen and Imaan by example. I hope I can become the women she is one day. During her battle with cancer, she did not once complain or say why me. I admire her knowledge of the deen and because of this knowledge it provided her comfort.
She would say to me if all the Prophets got tested – who am I to not be tested. She would look to the words of Allah for comfort. When she found an Ayah that resonated with her she would tell me ‘Bishara look at what Allah is saying to me, he is telling me to be patient’ (Qur’an 2:155)
She taught me it’s ok to be close to Allah. After she prayed Isha she would stay up until she thought everyone was asleep and then she would perform a night prayer and just sit there talking to Allah. She would tell him her fears, her hopes, her desires and she would cry to him. This provided comfort and a release for her because she never allowed herself to show these venerable emotions to her children. I think above all she taught me to say ‘Alhamdulillah’, and appreciate all the gifts that Allah has given us. Being healthy and having a body that doesn’t turn against you is a privilege and one that is not awarded to everyone. So I learned to thank Allah for all that he has given me.
You can never honestly know to be honest, but there are signs. A significant indicator for me was the fact that I did not abandon my faith. I learned to understand it and accept that whatever happens in my life there is kheir in it even if I can’t see the bigger picture.
The best advice I can give that person is to be strong and seek comfort in Allah. He will never abandon you even if it appears that way. The deen is so beautiful as it allows you to help your parent in this world and in the afterlife. Make Dua for them after prayer, give to charity in their names – these are all things that will raise and help your parents.
The second advice is to make sure you are not regretful. What I mean by this is that don’t look back and think I wish I would have done this for my parent. Be present- I know it’s hard and sometimes you want to run away and not address the fact that your parent may not survive, but be firm.
Your parent needs you more than anything right now and trust me if you’re scared, they’re 1000 times more scared than you. You’re going to have to make sacrifices – you will have to spend more time at home as cancer can have a huge physical impact. Go to hospital appointments with them – hold their hands, let them know that they can lean on you.
The final advice I can give is that its ok to have your down days. Its ok to cry and think that you can’t cope. I wish I had spoken to someone when my mum was ill. I was at university in my second year and I didn’t speak up. I just thought I had to endure the responsibility of balancing University, looking after my siblings and my mum. This was too much for me and my studies got affected. I wish I would have taken a gap year and gone back to university. There are options and people out there who are there to help you. You don’t have to balance the whole world on your shoulders.
In the sense that it’s become more meaningful. It’s not just routine anymore. I now enjoy my night time talks with him. I enjoy reading his words and seeking comfort in him. I know that if I don’t abandon him he will never abandon me.
I am a recent law graduate who does occasional pro bono work for local Masjids in London. I am a cat lover, coffee addict, and storyteller. I enjoy travelling, learning new cultures and watching anime. I hope to one day start a women-centered law firm that specialises in human rights.