The Journey Beyond Cancer

April 24, 2017 – After 8 pokes to search for a working vein, nurses at North York General Hospital infused Munira with her final Herceptin treatment, successfully closing the chapter on her battle against breast cancer.

Munira always says:  “Put it out to the Universe, and let it work its magic”. The Universe has come through again.

Dr. Robson confirmed that Munira’s latest mammogram results were negative.  Dr. Tiedemann confirmed that all bloodwork for her multiple myeloma (m-proteins, free light chains, etc.) are within the normal range. And her Non-Hodgkin lymphoma has been out of sight and out of mind for the past few years.

So on this, the 25th day of April, 2017, I’m putting it out to the Universe:

The Journey Through Cancer is over.  Now, the Journey Beyond Cancer begins.

Thank you to everyone for your support and prayers over the last 5+ years, and especially since December 2015, when Munira was diagnosed with breast cancer.

I’m writing this post because Munira is way too busy living her life beyond cancer.  Every day, she finds a way to make an impact on those around her – whether it’s providing support to others afflicted with cancer, or raising funds for cancer research at the Princess Margaret, or lending her name to the Munira Bra (to raise funds for North York General Hospital’s BMO Breast Cancer Centre), or volunteering for a major community project, or bursting into a room with her energy and exuding happiness and warmth, and … (I can’t keep up with her!)

So, thank you, and God bless everyone.

The Journey Beyond Cancer begins…




Mount Kilimanjaro: Between Heaven and Earth

January 4, 2017.

My life has been intrinsically connected to Mount Kilimanjaro.  I was born in Moshi, the landmark of Kilimanjaro, and every morning, as a child, I would jump out of bed, run to the window and see “my mountain”.  It was a ritual I continued until I left Moshi for Canada.  The mountain was my anchor and my certainty.  When I visited Moshi two years ago, the mountain had “disappeared”.  I could only see a faint impression of it; something to do with global warming.  It was a difficult reality to face as an adult.

Kilimanjaro is the highest mountain in Africa at 19,341 feet.  About 30,000 people climb the mountain each year and about three-quarters of those reach the summit.  This past week, my son Shayne, his girlfriend Fareen, the impressive Mohamud Zaver (Fareen’s dad), Shaila (Fareen’s sister) and Shaila’s friend, Aleeza, took the 6 day trek to climb Mount Kilimanjaro. For six days, we have been holding our breath, waiting expectantly to hear from this group of brave warriors.  This morning Shayne called us to say that they all made the summit successfully and reached base safely.  Over the next few days and weeks, I am sure we will hear about the adventures, the joys, the mishaps, the challenges, the exhaustion and the exhilaration that the group experienced.  Right now, their immediate focus is a shower and many hours of sleep!

2017-01-03-027As I think about their experience, I am mesmerized by the metaphor of climbing a mountain.  Of doing something that is so out of your comfort zone; something that gets your adrenalin moving and your heart pumping. Something that gets you out of your head and fully into your body; where there is equal risk of failure or success.   Of taking that first step and creating the momentum to see the top of anything, rather than staying at the bottom of your life.  Of figuring out your true capacity by doing the seemingly impossible.  Of trusting that you will make it to the peak, that forward momentum will  get you there and that all you need to do is to put your head down and move forward.  Of knowing that it’s not all straight up – sometimes, you have to go down to go up – and you may miss a trail or path, and that’s okay.  For making that final push, when you are tired and scared and don’t think you can do it anymore.  Of doing something so expansive, so magnificent, that it changes you forever.

We are not meant to be ordinary.  We are meant to be extraordinary.  And in being extraordinary, if we can touch the lives of others and share experiences, be in the moment and enjoy the process along the way, and not judge ourselves by others, what gifts might that open up for us?  I love this excerpted quote in Eric Walters book, Between Heaven and Earth.  In this story, one of the characters, DJ, is given a quest to take his grandfather’s ashes to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro. It is a great metaphor for life:

“There is a saying – if you wish to travel fast, travel alone. If you wish to travel far, travel together. You are part of a group of climbers, supported by partners and led by a guide. Travel with them. That’s important for the climb and in the life. As you trek up the mountain, I want you to stop along the way, enjoy each step, each moment. Breathe in the air, savor the view, live in the moment. Move slowly, enjoy. Remember not to wish away the minute of the days between now and the goal you are seeking. When you look up, you’ll see climbers further along the journey. When you look back you’ll see those behind you. Don’t pity those below or envy those above. Life is a journey and not a destination; each must take it at his own pace.”

What is the one thing you will do in 2017 to be extraordinary?  To break out of  your comfort zone?  To broaden your perspective?  To embrace challenges?  To test your boundaries?  Each one of us is at a different pace. Is it learning a new language?  Is it taking a sabbatical?  Is it moving to Spain for 2 months and embracing a new culture?  Is it simply getting out of bed earlier?  Is it committing to working out 3 times a week?  Is it loving more?

I’m sitting with this for now as I applaud Shayne, Fareen, Mohamud, Shaila and Aleeza for the journey they took together and how this is inspiring me to find my own mountain.

– Munira



Forbes 30 Under 30

The 2017 FORBES 30 Under 30 is the most definitive gathering of today’s leading young change-makers and innovators in the U.S. Now in its sixth year, the 30 Under 30 offers an annual opportunity to embrace the optimism, inventiveness and boldness of youth. We bring you 30 game changers in 20 industries all under 30 years old — 600 in total — who are challenging the conventional wisdom and rewriting the rules for the next generation of entrepreneurs, entertainers, educators and more. They are passionate and formidable bunch, and for good reason. Their goal is nothing short of breaking the status quo and transforming the world.

Caroline Howard, Forbes Magazine, Jan. 3, 2017

We are so proud (and gobsmacked really!) to announce that Afzal and Sabrina have been named to Forbes 30 Under 30 Class of 2017.

forbes-30-under-30-sabrina-afzal2Forbes has been compiling this list since 2012, and the 30 Under 30 community is 4,000 strong the world over, from the U.S. to Europe to Asia. The 2017 competition was more extreme than ever before.  There were 15,000+ nominations for just 600 spots:  that’s an acceptance rate of less than 4%; making it harder to get into than America’s two most selective schools, Stanford University (4.8%) and Harvard University (5.2%)..

The 2017 class is an impressive one:  actress Margot Robbie, Canadian tennis superstar Milos Raonic, Olympic gold-medal winning gymnast Simone Biles,  and Lonely Planet CEO Daniel Houghton.  These are individuals who are making a difference and having an impact in 20 industries.  Even more impressive is the list of past winners:  Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, musicians Justin Bieber and Taylor Swift, superstar athletes LeBron James and Sidney Crosby, and the founders of Snapchat.

Forbes magazine, with 17 pages of coverage, goes on stands on January 10th.  The list is live online here:

Check out Afzal and Sabrina’s individual profile page right here:

Afzal immediately gave credit for this award to the Kidogo Family, it’s partners and customers.  Sabrina expressed hope that the award would give exposure to the plight of mothers in the poorest areas of East Africa who have limited options for good quality childcare, particularly during the crucial first five years when 85% of brain development takes place.  Kidogo serves to offer best-practice early childhood development in the urban slums where children from 6 months to 6 years are provided with quality care and education for less than a dollar a day.  Their hope is to expand Kidogo to other low-income communities so that every child has the opportunity to reach their full potential. Our prayer is that they can realize this goal.

We are just as proud of Samir Ibrahim, co-founder of Sun Culture, which sells solar-powered irrigation systems to Kenyan farmers. Samir was named Forbes 30 Under 30 in the Energy category. We know Samir’s parents, Al-karim and Tazim Ibrahim of Orlando, Florida, very well.  In fact, Nagib and Al-karim grew up together in Dar­−es−salaam, Tanzania, and their families originate from the coastal town of Mtwara, Tanzania.  How incredible is it that two of the top young people on the Forbes list have roots in the same little town in East Africa, whose parents immigrated to Canada and the U.S. in the 1970’s, and now,  the younger generation is working towards improving the lives of the people of their native lands!

Samir’s profile is here:


A recording of Tasbihs

It started out as an idea.  Over time it became a vision.  Then it was about bringing people together to bring this vision to reality.  This was a collaborative effort, with each contributor bringing something special to the process.  And today we have a product, a recording titled “Gulistan-e-Akeedat” which means Garden of Devotion.  And after many months of working on this project, we are thrilled to share this recording with you!

The recording is a series of prayers in the praise of Allah.  It was created with love by the vocalists to transport listeners to a place of spiritual bliss and tranquility. Munira Premji initiated and led the project.  With raw energy and enthusiasm, Salim Nensi shared insights on how to move this project forward, including making the soundtrack available on-line.   Khairunissa Gangani brought her passion for music, design, beauty and structure to the team; her involvement was integral to the team. Shahzadi Devje came up with the title of the recording and lent her beautiful voice to the recording. Karim Dayani starts off with a solo piece at the beginning of the recording and was the technical expert, responsible for enunciation.

Flute Player Jatinder (Jeetu) Prakash provides the soulful music that permeates the recording.  Jeetu is known for playing flute in the Oscar winning score for the movie, Life of Pi, as well as playing the flute for the movie, Chloe.  Jeetu is an instinctive flute player and his music in divinely inspired. As he played, we experienced a myriad of emotions.  His music is at once, energetic, exuberant, plaintive, reminiscent, choral, mysterious, sustained, swirling and graceful.

The recording was done by the talented Khalid Saleem of Saleem Recording Studio. Khalid also provided the keyboard accompaniment.

The recording is available on SoundCloud.  To listen to the recording, click on the link below:

Feel free to send the following link out to your family and friends if you think they will enjoy it.

Our hope is that this recording will be shared with listeners worldwide to bring joy and prayer in their lives. This is a recording we are so proud to share with you!

A Year In Review, and What’s Next?

2016-12-21-049Toronto, December 31, 2016.  I love the feel of a brand new year.  A time when everything seems entirely possible.  January is derived from the two-faced Greek God, Janus.  One face looks back in the past, and the other face looks forward to the future.  Symbolically, it is a time to reflect on the past year and begin fresh with a new year filled with new hopes and dreams.

As you think about the new year, take some time to consider all the successes, joys and accomplishments from 2016.  What meaning do they hold for you? How have they shaped, even transformed you?  What breakthroughs are you celebrating?   What impact have you had on others and on the world? I find that it is so valuable to reflect on this and celebrate; otherwise, they get forgotten and buried in the busyness of life.

While 2016 was a tough year for me — with the diagnosis of breast cancer in January, it was also a particularly fulfilling year for celebration and accomplishments.  Sabrina graduated from Columbia University in May.  We celebrated Sabrina and Afzal’s wedding in July, enveloped in the love and warmth of family and friends.  I made progress on all the goals I had set for myself — learnt to cook at least 30 new dishes, started a fitness program, recorded a CD of Tasbihs with friends, continued to work a few days a month to keep current in my profession, woke up regularly at 4 am to meditate for an hour, took on many volunteer assignments as a way to give back to the community, and became an active learner, spending at least two hours every day learning and developing skills on areas of interest.  And then there was the Munira Bra – – a wonderful collaboration between North York General Hospital (NYGH)  and Knixwear — proceeds of which will go to the NYGH for a biopsy table for breast cancer patients.

Also think about the regrets, disappointments, letdowns and losses from 2016.  What meaning do they hold for you?  Without blame or guilt, what might have caused the situation to happen?  What part did you play?  What did you learn about yourself?  Then let it go.  

This year,  I said goodbye to three friends who lost their battle with multiple myeloma;  I salute their valiant fight, feel their loss and honour their memory.  I continue to feel guilty for the pain I caused Nagib and my family as they saw me struggle through the side-effects of the surgery, chemo and radiation.   And there were a few relationships this year that I did not nurture.  I regret this as I realize that I played a part in causing the failed relationships.  These are opportunities to work on.

And as you start a brand new year, think about what you need to do to up your game and Play Big in 2017?  What do you need to bring forward from your accomplishments and successes to continue to be your best self?  What is your commitment to creating the life you want? And how will you make this happen in 2017?

I hope to do this by becoming more caring and compassionate.  By letting people know: “I see you, I really see you”.  Whether you are lost or joyful or sad or hopeful, I see you as whole, complete and resourceful.  I hope to Play Big by having a book published in 2017.  And I want to continue in my quest for health and vitality.  I will also continue to build on the successes and momentum of 2016.

This is such a great activity to do as a family.  We sat together for a couple of hours on Christmas Day, each of us talking about our 2016 achievements, learnings and goals for 2017.  The conversation was rich and authentic.  We learnt more about each other and have a better idea on how to support one another in 2017.  The best part is that, as we were speaking, Shayne wrote what we said in some detail so there is a sense of record and accountability, and something we can look back on a year from now.

To everyone that I have been blessed to have in my world this year and over the years – – the pioneers, the dreamers, the adventurers, the collaborators, the discoverers, the illuminators, the caregivers, the courageous ones, the heroes, the misfits, the shape-shifters, the hopeful ones, and the salt of the earth — I wish for you all the bountiful blessings from the universe.  And I celebrate your greatness.   May your 2017 be resplendent with hope, optimism, faith, dreams, joy and fulfillment.

– Munira

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