| azizahmagazine.com

“A Joyous Song” by Saara Aziz - www.saaraaziz.com

We’ll Get through This, Insha’Allah

Dear Friends,

As salaamu alaykum.

It’s hard to think of anything meaningful to say, as our hearts still ache with unrelenting grief about the Connecticut school shooting.  I stopped watching the news last night, but the sadness pervades. Tonight, the front image on the New York Times home page is a black box with the names and ages of the victims written in white.  Six, seven, six, seven… Inna Lillah wa Inna Ilayhi Raji’oon.  (Truly we are from God and to God we will all return.) May God protect all our children, everywhere, and ease the pain of those who are grieving, everywhere.
It feels inappropriate to write a letter about my own health, when others are suffering unimaginable anguish.  But as you’ve been by my side on this journey, I wanted to write one more note to let you know that I completed my radiation last week. Alhamdulillah. 
Day 33 was in many ways like all the others. The 2:15pm appointment, the blue gown, the familiar faces in the waiting room.  But on this last day, after that last beep, the technicians and I were able to laugh.  They reminded me of my first day – how I refused to enter the room, frozen by fear at the sight of the mammoth machine; how tightly I held those black handles, they had to pry open my fingers.  This last time, I was able to close my eyes.  This too has passed.
There is one more step to the process.  A decision. Whether or not to take a drug called Tamoxifen for the next five years. It halves the chances of recurrence. Great.  But it has some serious side effects. Not so great.  And the idea of taking a drug for five years – a new study suggesting 10 years – seems disconcerting.   I can’t seem to decide, and given my early detection I do have a choice. I’m taking a break for a couple of weeks, resting, recouping, recharging and then, Insha’Allah, deciding.

Photo by Aasil Ahmad

While I’d like to think that this is the end of the process, it really is just the beginning of the journey.  To a more healthy, less stressful, more joyous, less worry-filled, more giving, less self-absorbed life.   Insha’Allah.
Throughout this year, so many of you have reminded me that God does not give us more than we can endure; that in hardship, there is ease.  This year’s struggles started with my father’s stroke; then my mom’s knee replacement surgery; then my girl’s very difficult time.  I thought I would never smile again. Alhamdulillah, they’re all doing so much better.  God does not give us more than we can bear. Yes. I’ve also been really impressed with His pacing.  One hardship, then ease. The next, then relief . The next, then comfort.  Allowing me to focus on this current challenge with some measure of fortitude and forbearance. 
I knew I couldn’t get through this time without my tribe. So I reached out to all of you. Family and friends, some with whom I had lost touch but who I care about deeply. It feels good to deepen our bonds of friendship, to reconnect and realize you were always there. 
The other day a friend of mine who I hadn’t seen in a while came over. I filled her in about my treatment, what the doctors are advising, how my family is coping.  She listened sincerely, then she looked at me and asked, “But, really, how are you doing?”  That’s when the tears started. 
A friend and editor of a magazine asked if she could publish these letters on her magazine’s website.  I wasn’t so sure at first, it’s been a personal journey that I’ve shared with a few.  But if these letters can provide some comfort or hope to someone else, help start a conversation about an issue we don’t openly talk about in our own community, or encourage us to ask each other, “But really, how are you doing?”, perhaps that would be the best thing to come out of this experience. 
When she asked what I’d like to title the series, I thought the five words with which I ended each letter best sum it up.  After all, it’s not about me, it’s not about cancer. It’s about life’s vicissitudes, which we all face, and about getting through them with grace, with community, with faith.  And tonight, as I hug my children a little tighter, I will put in those five words as much love, prayers and strength as I can for those who are suffering so much.
We’ll get through this, Insha’Allah.
PS:  The first two letters are published here. Please share the links with anyone who may benefit.

Salma Hasan Ali is a writer who focuses on cross-cultural issues and people making a difference. She is also a mother of two and the Chief Inspiration Officer of MoverMoms, an NGO that promotes family friendly community service.

Read Letter #1
Read Letter #2