Teal is the deal – an inspirational, life-experienced commentary by Uzma Hayat
We all want our lives to be good. We all want our lives to be better. We all have this magnificent plan of our future. We all have goals and ambitions to strive towards. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. But, what happens when an obstacle is placed in our way, on our path, hindering us, breaking us or preventing us from moving even an inch forward? The first question that comes to mind is, why me? Why do I need to be punished, why do I need to be put through difficulty and hardship. Why, why, why me?
My question is: what gives us the right to ask “why me?” What gives us the right to question the plan of the Higher Being? What gives us the right to question His actions, because ultimately when asking ‘why me’ we are questioning His actions.
I had decided to take the year 2014 off to come back home and spend time with my family. Studying away from home for five years is a bit much for someone who is so attached to her family. Obviously, the plan was to chill, help my mother dearest around the house, take weekends away to appreciate the beauty of nature created by our Lord, and go to England for a visit to my grandparents. England happened, yes. And so did a lot more! Little did I know that I would hit South African soil again carrying a neuroendocrine, small cell carcinoma tumour in my abdomen – in short, ovarian cancer.
Travelling to England was, of course, not a novelty but more of a journey for me to spend time with my mother’s side of the family. I have always felt deprived of spending time with that side of the family because of the great distance. Yes, a visit occurs every three years, or so, but it is never time well spent with all individuals. Despite falling ill on my holiday it was remarkable to spend time with family.
Rumi always says, “Love is the essence and purpose of all life.” Without love, what are we? Love is family, and family is love. Our everyday lives are encompassed by love. We just need to step aside and begin to realise that.
This is how my teal coloured journey began.
Being admitted to a hospital for a stomach ache in a foreign country, without having your strongest pillar with you, can be the scariest thing one can endure. How does one go through antibiotic after antibiotic, scan after scan, blood test after blood test without having their mother around? I’ll tell you. I had to pull strength from all sources to get through that daunting week. I had my uncles and aunts around but it wasn’t the same as having my mother around. The biggest strength I pulled was from my Creator. He had placed such an immense amount of strength in me that when I look back now, I cannot fathom how I got through that dreadful week. However, my cancer diagnosis only came through three weeks after a biopsy had been conducted on my tumour because the biopsy had to be sent to two different labs to make certain that the readings were correct. The type of cancer that I had been diagnosed with was incredibly rare and obviously my age didn’t play on my side for ovarian cancer. 24, ovarian cancer, something must be wrong.
Those were the most daunting three weeks for my folks because they felt utterly helpless not knowing whether to bring me home immediately or jump on a plane to wait the three weeks in the UK with me. I, for some reason, stayed the most patient knowing fully that this is my Creator’s wish and plan. Three weeks later I was on a plane back to South Africa even braver than I was before. My parents had asked me, “My child, will you be able to fly back on your own, or should one of us come to accompany you on the journey back?” my response, “I travelled to England with this 15 cm tumour, surely I can travel back with it!”
On my return, I was immediately booked to see an Oncologist in Johannesburg. Before treatment had commenced my Oncologist had me sent for one more scan – a PET scan. This scan depicts all the areas that may be affected by the cancer. The news after the scan: “Uzma, I do not have good news. Your cancer has spread to your lymph nodes, your rib and your clavicle, not to mention both ovaries have been affected and the tumour that is lying on your ovaries is 15x6x7 cm. This tumour is causing pressure on your urethra causing your kidneys to inflame leading to hydro-nephrosis of the kidneys.” The look on my parents face could have anyone shattered, yet I remained calm knowing that this is my Creator’s plan. My oncologist was not confident that treatment would work on a stage 4 ovarian cancer diagnosis but he said to try at least. I was scheduled for six cycles of the most aggressive chemotherapy. Every four weeks, for three days I had to drive to Johannesburg to receive treatment.
Before I consented to the start of chemotherapy we had discussed at home that if we could try alternative therapy, all the better because the side effects of chemotherapy are horrific! But after the news we had received, I thought not to play with my life with alternative therapy (even though I would have preferred the alternative) and go ahead with chemo. I live in a household where alternative medicine is always an option before conventional. So in the end I decided we will go through with chemotherapy and we will do alternative therapy in conjunction. The alternative consisted of ozone therapy, hemp oil (Marijuana), green powders, whole squeezed lemons, Ajwa dates, Zam Zam water, high fibre diet, no sugars, no processed and refined foods and Kalunji (Black seed). In my opinion each of these items contributed to assisting to eradicate this dreadful disease. Not to forget to mention, prayer. Prayer, I am convinced is the biggest contributing factor!
Every month my mum and I would venture off to the dear Gauteng province for my chemotherapy to be administered over three days. If ever there were angels in the form of humans, my mother is one of them! For the past 9 months, I have been her priority! I would begin to throw up the minute the chemotherapy entered my body, my mother was ready with vomit bowls and bags for me so that she would be able to catch it all without me messing all over the show! After the third day we would head back to Rustenburg so that I could recover at home. For the next 5 – 7 days I would be as weak as a baby, still throwing up anything that was ingested. Those days were my darkest days and my family had to have to see me endure it. The worst was when a drip needed to come home because I was so dehydrated. That is when I knew ‘the shit hit the fan’.
With chemotherapy so many transformations occur! Hair loss is the most obvious, erratic mood swings, menstrual changes, weakened immune system, and lack of appetite. Those are just the few that I had experienced. Other patients have it far worst! I had tried to prepare myself as much as I could by cutting my hair short and then shaving it. The other alternative medicine kept my body as healthy as it could by preventing me from experiencing the worst of the chemo, such as, grey skin, grey finger nails and ulcers in my mouth.
Not one day did my family allow me to feel unhappy due to these side effects. Not one day did they neglect to show me their love and support, not one day did they deny any of my wishes! There were days where I just wanted to cry; my mother allowed me to by just sitting with me. There were days where I just wanted to throw things at all corners of the room; my dad would pray over me. There were days I would squeal that my food was not cooked the way I wanted it; my mother would make it all over again until she got it right. There were days I would yell at my sisters for silly things; they would just endure it all! I cannot be more grateful for the family that my Creator has brought me into, for He knew that I would need that undying love and support during this trying time. I am certain that there were days that they would get frustrated with me, but not one day did they show that frustration! Not one day at all.
There were good days as well where I would be thankful to my Creator for giving me and my family the strength to have to get through this trying time. I am thankful that He is giving us more attention than any other family, I am thankful that He had chosen me to fight this battle! I am thankful for the blessings that have come with this illness. I am thankful for the relationship that I now share with my Creator. I am thankful for the relationship that I share with my family. I am thankful for seeing life in a different light. I am thankful appreciating life. I am thankful for seeing the real purpose we have been placed on this earth for; to serve our Creator and humanity at large. Ultimately I am thankful for being able to live and know that I have yet not fulfilled my purpose on this earth. My Creator has a plan for me and I am excited to live that plan for His sake and His alone!
My family and friends from far and wide would be in touch with me to see how I have been doing and how things have been progressing. Relationships have been on the mend since my diagnosis, new relationships have been formed, and old ones renewed.
There are more blessings than burdens, as I see it!!
Each month my body would be shattered by the chemotherapy, regained strength and then it would be time for shattering again. A vicious cycle for 6 months. Once that was over we had to conduct another PET scan to see what effect all this had had. To our great surprise (even more so to my doctors) the scan showed that the cancer that had been spread to all the other parts of my body was no longer there and the cancer was now just localised to the primary, which were the ovaries and the tumour above that. All praises to God for this miracle. Now I had to be referred to a specialist because my oncologist could no longer be of assistance.
After our appointment with the specialist (A gynae-oncologist) the option of surgically removing the tumour and my ovaries had risen. I had already psychologically prepared myself if ever I had to have my ovaries removed so it wasn’t much of a shock when my specialist had said that this is the next best thing for me. After having to process, it hit me a bit harder thinking about not being able to have my own children, the thought of my womanhood being stripped from me, because it wasn’t just the ovaries that were going to be removed. It was that my whole reproductive system needed to be removed. After I reached the psychological state, I needed to I know that this, too, is Allah’s plan. And the thing that got me through it all was the fact that surgery was never an option in the beginning and now that it was, I felt I had been given a new lease on life! I felt like God has been so great to us, what is it for me to sacrifice a few organs for His sake!
We underwent surgery – a process called staging laparotomy. Here, the surgeon cuts you open to view the extent of the cancer damage and then cut out all necessary affected areas. My doctor was happy with the way my surgery had gone and now I am in a 6 week recovery for my wound to completely heal.
What I can finally say is that cancer may seem like a dreadful disease, it is, but it doesn’t mean that your life needs to end. It doesn’t mean that you need to give up hope. It doesn’t mean that your life is any less valuable than that of anyone else’s. It means that you are a fighter, it means you have undying strength waiting to be used inside of you. That is what it means to be a Cancer survivor.
I am a cancer survivor!
It was a great pleasure to supervise Habib Noorbhai. He has unique abilities that I have not previously experienced in any of the PhD students I have assisted. I have not ever experienced this combination of personal abilities and drives in any other student. Other characteristics that I appreciated are his ability to be fearless – he is not daunted by any task he sets himself – and his desire to push the boundaries of knowledge, regardless of the personal consequences.
~ Prof Tim Noakes, Emeritus Professor, University of Cape Town
Habib was warmly welcomed by the Redbacks team and staff and fitted in well. He carried out his duties diligently and efficiently. The players and staff had only had praise for his experise and enthusiasm during the CLT20 tournament and this was much appreciated by all. Habib also showed initiative outside his core duties by assisting the support staff on training days and always doing this to the best of his abilities. During this time, Habib had been well-organised, reliable and responsible.
~ Simon Cain, South Australian Redbacks Cricket, 2010
The service that I received from Habib Noorbhai was more than satisfactory. Habib was considerate about the fact that I had limited assistance with very limited time. He was more than helpful in terms of structuring my work, checking the content, and all other features of my work. I would recommend his assistance to any other person who needs guidance in similar tasks. Mr Noorbhai was patient, understanding and encouraging at all times. I would like to thank Mr Noorbhai for his assistance with my thesis completion.
~ Nicholas Christelis, University of Cape Town student, 2014.
Whomever Habib speaks or presents to, he does so with such enthusiasm, practically and is highly adaptable to his audience and the genre. It is a pleasure to listen to his unique insights and perspectives. One can't help but feel inspired to do and be more after interacting with him.
Taahira Goolam Hoosen, University of Cape Town, 2016