Surviving Cancer: A Powerful Journey of Hope and Hifz

Warning: What I’m about to share is going to get emotional. This is a story of surviving cancer and a journey of memorising the Qur’ān.

Memorising the Qur’ān while being unwell is a huge challenge. The journey of battling cancer and simultaneously committing to memorising or revising the blessed verses of the Qur’ān is a test of resilience in ways you can never imagine. In the midst of hospital stays, doctor’s appointments, and the physical and emotional toll of treatment, you cling to the words of Allāh as a source of solace and strength. Each verse I memorised became a ray of hope that illuminated the darkness that cancer brought into my life. Despite the physical and mental struggles, I persevered, determined to forge a deep connection with the Qur’ān, seeking healing and guidance through its words.

But before I tell about my journey, I want to share the journey of a younger soul from Birmingham, UK.

An 18-year-old starts her hifz while battling cancer

“I’m 18 and this is my cancer Hifz story. I started to memorise short surahs while I was in hospital. This is my story. On 4th November 2021 I was diagnosed with AML leukaemia.

It all started in September, when one day I got up in the morning at 5am and my vision started to go blurry, I lost my energy and I dropped to the floor. I thought this was normal and my blood pressure just dropped as it was early in the morning so I got back up and left this, didn’t take any notice about it. One week later it all happened again, I lost my energy and started to get black outs. I went to Queen Elizabeth Hospital and they did blood tests and because they all came clear they sent me back home. A few days went by and my legs started to hurt and I dropped again, this is when I called the ambulance. I was taken in the ambulance, I waited several hours just to be sent back home where they said that maybe it’s just you are dehydrated and that’s why you feel weak.

September 21st 2021 I started university, it was my first year and I was studying criminology. End of September I got worse. I couldn’t leave my bed anymore, I started getting high temperatures, night sweats, shivers, black outs, no energy to the point where I couldn’t physically move without the help of a family member. I couldn’t take showers myself, my mom had to help me, I couldn’t walk for long, my mom had to help me. I went to my GP several times after this, just to be sent back home and told it’s just a viral infection and it takes a few weeks to get better. So then I thought okay maybe it’s just an infection and I’ll give it time. 4 weeks went by and this was it, I couldn’t take it anymore. I started to feel sick, black outs every 10min, dropping to the floor, bruises on my legs, low blood pressure, and I couldn’t walk anymore.

26th October 2021 I went to another hospital, Birmingham City Hospital. They took my bloods and said to me we have to keep you in for a few days, we would like to do more tests. I had some hope here, thinking maybe the doctor in the hospital got it wrong. Queen Elizabeth Hospital did 3 bone marrow tests and the 3rd one showed that, it was actually leukaemia. I had already prepared myself from the start because I was already told in the other hospital that it was this. But when I was told this again, I burst into tears again. The little hope I had again wasn’t there anymore.

19th November 2021 I started my first chemotherapy. I was feeling very tired and had a lot of sickness and I started to lose my hair. This was very emotional for me as I had really nice and long hair and knowing that I was going to lose it all and be bald was really hard for me to take in. I had this chemo for 11 days and then I had 3 weeks to recover where I had to have blood transfusions and platelets transfusion and a bone marrow biopsy to see how much of the leukaemia was left. After this recovery I was sent home for 11 days and I was back in again on January 6th 2022 for my second treatment. My first chemo showed there was partial response so the second chemo was a bit more intense. This was for 5 days. It gave me blisters all over my mouth and spots on my face to the point where I couldn’t eat. I had tiredness and sickness and lost a lot of my hair.

January 15th it was my birthday, I turned 19 but this was in hospital. It wasn’t like my other birthdays where I was having fun and getting all dressed up and ready, it was more of a hard one, a tough one, upsetting that I was in hospital for it. After this I was kept in for 3 weeks where I had to have antibiotics as my immune system was low and I got an infection.

February 1st I was sent home and a few weeks later I was told I was in remission. Wow and Alhamdulillah. But this wasn’t the end. I was told I was going to have a bone marrow transplant and I needed a donor. My sister was tested and SHE WAS A MATCH. Now I’m just waiting on the doctors to see if they will use my sister, but guess what if they don’t I have TWO MORE other international matches. I really hope they use my sister though as she is the perfect match.

Monday 7th March 2022 I started chemo injections for 7 days just because they didn’t want the cancer to come back and just because for now we are waiting to have the transplant done. For now I am waiting for my transplant and I will keep you guys updated soon… (written on 9th March 2022)

Please keep me in your duas. I need them all now.

Jazakallah khiaran.

Your sister in Islam.”

This sister described what it is like to go through the experience. But there’s one thing that stands out for you and me. She kept going. At the age of 18, even when in hospital she prayed all five despite the lack of energy and the ugly side effects of her chemo. She had her Qur’ān by her bedside and still tried to recite. May Allāh grant her healing and recovery, and grant His Word.

We have to reflect on ourselves.

When I wrote the Promise of Ten, I wrote about a friend who had started memorising the Qur’ān with me who ended up getting cancer but didn’t survive at a very young age. Even he kept going.

Having battled cancer myself recently, and for anyone else having gone through the same, you cannot imagine what a person goes through. But there’s one friend that’s always there: Qur’ān. Time doesn’t befriend anyone. Qur’ān lives on. We’re all going to have an audience with Allāh. What will we be asked to perform in that audience? Qur’ān.

How I got cancer and how it didn’t stop me

In 2019, I was about to lead the ‘Eid prayer. It was also my birthday. I started losing energy and eventually I collapsed at the start of the Jamat. I was told I literally started whirling in circles. The prayer had to be stopped. For the next few years, I faced various health challenges, none greater than being diagnosed with kidney cancer.

I found myself facing pain in the abdomen and decided to call my GP. They suggested I undertake an ultrasound. The next day I get a call and the GP starts saying they found a large cyst in your kidney, I’m not saying it’s cancer but we need to get you checked immediately. Right there she planted in my mind that this could be cancer.

Come April and May 2021, I had some scans. Days later I meet my consultant who says, I don’t know how to tell you but this looks like cancer. You’re going to need surgery. There’s nothing else we can do.

I wanted time to process this. I delayed surgery. I’d start taking the opinion of my herbalist and take herbs. I’d start Ruqya and seek healing through the Qur’ān. I’d keep getting ultrasounds to keep a check on the size of the cyst/tumour. Anxiety began to build. Mental health challenges began to creep in. I changed my diet even further. I started to lose even more muscle and weight. I was tired.

I eventually ended up getting coronavirus when I was scheduled to have surgery. I got it really bad. I couldn’t move. I started coughing for months on end. This made my consultant fear that my cancer had spread and so I can more scans. This time, the size of the tumour had increased slightly. I felt it was time to go for surgery. Towards the end of 2021, I was in surgery to remove the cyst. It turned out, it was indeed kidney cancer.

Since then I’ve been dealing with recovery and regular hospital visits over the past year. I’ve had to battle levels of fatigue I’ve never experienced before. I’ve had to battle against so many things that I’ve never faced before. And I’ve been dealing with an experience with the Qur’ān, I’ve never had before. Alhamdulillāh.

I couldn’t recite out loud.

I couldn’t sit for more than 5 minutes to recite.

I couldn’t talk for more than 10 minutes.

I would collapse.

It is why I haven’t been active too much online – because it drains me.

I couldn’t recite the Qur’ān as I normally would do. Whenever I would listen to the Qur’ān, I would start crying. I would try to make time for some Qur’ān. I would sit and try to recite Qur’ān but start to fall asleep.

When I was on the hospital bed, I couldn’t sit up without feeling sick. I couldn’t eat without feeling sick. I couldn’t do anything but try to sleep. I would try to recite and I wouldn’t be able to cross a page or so.

I always tell you to keep going.

I too had to keep going.

Fast forward to a year and half later, I am able to recite the Qur’ān out loud again. I am to recite in public. I am to lead the prayer. I am to recite longer than 10 minutes. Although I still have a cut off point from where I begin to get drained, I know that the more I do, the better I’ll get. Alhamdulillāh.

Here’s what I want you to know.

You must act now

Life is inherently unpredictable, we’re not in complete control. Despite our best efforts to plan and control every aspect, circumstances can swiftly change, altering our trajectory without warning. Suddenly, the ability to chart our future becomes a distant dream, and the stark realisation dawns upon us that time is a fleeting gift, one we must take advantage of rather than merely exist within.

This is why the Prophet (ﷺ) told us:

“Take advantage of five before five: your youth before your old age, your health before your illness, your riches before your poverty, your free time before your work, and your life before your death.”

If you’re lingering and procrastinating over your Hifz, you cannot tell me you will tomorrow. Starting is hard but how can you dream of a better tomorrow if you remain stuck in your yesterday? You must act now.

Focus on one thing at a time

Taking things by one is very important. We live in an age where we’re overloaded from every direction. It’s overwhelming us. You need to take things one day at a time and focus on taking care of yourself (sleep, diet, spiritual food, and exercise). If you don’t have health, you can’t do a lot things.

When you’re doing your Hifz, you need sacred time. You need focus. You need to have a time where you can be alone with the Qur’ān. You have one chance. You have one body. You have one life. Where are you spending it?

Embrace resilience and adaptability

Throughout my battle with cancer and the challenges that followed, I learned the true importance of resilience and adaptability. Allāh will throw unexpected tests our way, testing our faith, loyalty, strength and resolve. In those moments, we have to embrace resilience and adaptability, allowing us to navigate through adversity with courage and flexibility.

When I received the diagnosis of kidney cancer, it was a life-altering situation. It would have been easy to succumb to fear and despair, but I chose to embrace resilience. I didn’t fear anything. My consultant was very surprised by my reaction. I showed no emotion other than acceptance. Yes, I sought various avenues for healing, exploring alternative treatments and seeking support from others. I refused to let the diagnosis define me or limit my ability to fight back.

But, the journey was not without its setbacks. The outbreak of the coronavirus further complicated my situation, delaying my surgery and raising concerns about the possible spread of the cancer. By the Will of Allāh, I adapted to the circumstances, staying strong through the battle with COVID-19, enduring its debilitating effects, and continuing to pursue my recovery. Alhamdulillāh.

Resilience enabled me to push forward, even when faced with physical and mental exhaustion. It was not a linear journey, but a series of ups and downs, triumphs and setbacks. There were times when I couldn’t recite out loud, sit for more than a few minutes, or even talk for extended periods. Yet, I persisted, recognising that progress is not always linear, but a result of consistent effort and a resilient mindset.

Adaptability was equally vital throughout this process. I had to adapt my plans, my expectations, and even my daily routines to accommodate the challenges I faced. It meant adjusting my diet, seeking additional medical scans, and making peace with the fact that my capabilities had temporarily diminished. I had to learn to listen to my body, understand its limitations, and find alternative ways to nourish my spirit and pursue my goals. I had to learn new things. I had stop teaching Qur’ān as well.

In your journey to memorise the Qur’ān, you will encounter obstacles and challenges. There may be days when it feels overwhelming, or setbacks that make you question your progress. But remember, resilience and adaptability are your allies. Embrace them, knowing that setbacks are not failures, but opportunities for growth. Adapt your strategies, seek support, and keep moving forward with unwavering determination.

Resilience and adaptability are not qualities exclusive to extraordinary individuals. I am not one of them. They reside within each of us, waiting to be cultivated and nurtured. Embrace the challenges, learn from them, and let them shape you into a stronger, more resilient person. With these qualities by your side, you can overcome any obstacle and continue your journey of memorising the Qur’ān with steadfast determination and unwavering faith.

Nurture your well-being and prioritise self-care

Throughout this journey, I have realised the importance of nurturing my well-being and prioritising self-care. Taking care of oneself is not a luxury but a necessity. It is crucial to listen to our bodies, give ourselves the rest we need, and nourish our minds, bodies, and souls. This is prophetic.

When pursuing your Hifz or any other endeavour, ensure that you make time for self-care. Prioritise sleep, maintain a healthy diet, seek spiritual nourishment, and engage in activities that bring you joy and peace. By nurturing your well-being, you’ll have the energy, focus, and resilience necessary to overcome challenges and continue on your path to memorising the Qur’ān.

Remember, the journey of memorising the Qur’ān is not just about achieving the end goal but also about personal growth, resilience, and spiritual connection. Embrace the process, take care of yourself, and keep moving forward with determination and gratitude.

These are some thoughts and reflections from me as a means to provide you with further motivation. I hope it has given you a much needed kick.

May Allāh grant us all health and healing physically, mentally, and spiritually.

Keep going.

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