I WILL SURVIVE

FOLD selects Choosing Hope for their September Challenge

FOLD selects Choosing Hope for their September Challenge

The Festival of Literary Diversity (FOLD) is Canada’s first festival for diverse authors and storytellers. Each year, the FOLD’s Reading Challenge encourages booklovers to diversify their reading and their listening by asking one important question: Who’s missing? Each month, the FOLD features one of the challenges, providing suggested titles. As shown in the graphic below, for the month of September, FOLD features books by authors living with chronic illnesses.

I am so humbled that the FOLD team has chosen my book, Choosing Hope: 1 Woman. 3 Cancers, as one of the books for their September reading challenge. Their intent is to help readers reflect on what it is like to live with a chronic illness and how it is possible to thrive in spite of overwhelming challenges.

Writing this book was a tough process. For me, it meant re-living through every painful memory of the diagnoses and treatment, including long bouts of chemotherapy, painful radiation, invasive and multiple surgeries and a difficult stem cell transplant. It meant talking about my losses – loss of identity, of purpose, of stamina, of work, of self-worth. For my family, it meant writing about their lived experience of what is was like to be a caregiver for someone living on borrowed time. The statistics are daunting. Today, 1 in nearly 2 Canadians will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime. This book captures the the stark reality of being diagnosed with a chronic illness, the surprising gifts that come with this, and insights and lessons learned.

For more information about the September FOLD challenge, please click on the link below.

https://thefoldcanada.org/webinars-activities/the-reading-challenge/2021-fold-challenge-september/

The Weekend to Conquer Cancer

September 12, 2021 – This morning started a bit tough.  I woke up sluggish, with every bone in my body aching.  Nagib brought me 2 Tylenols and got me out of bed.  It was the Princess Margaret’s Weekend to Conquer Cancer day!  And so off we drove to downtown to participate in the Walk.  We met volunteers and kindred spirits – all with the singular goal to conquer cancer in our lifetime.

Because of COVID, the Walk took on a different flavour.  Instead of a formal walk with thousands of people walking together on an established route, Nagib and I took the time to walk and explore the vibrant Queen Street West neighbourhood, with its eclectic stores, independent restaurants and high fashion.  We then stumbled into the Village by the Grange park, a surprisingly roomy park nestled behind the Art Gallery and boasting spectacular views of the city.  We loved seeing kids take over the playground, families enjoying picnicking and happy dogs taking their owners for a walk!  On our way back to the Princess Margaret, our feet then took us to Baldwin Street, a funky street known for its restaurants.  We ended up at Koh Lipe, a colorful Thai restaurant that served a delectable green curry chicken and the most authentic sticky mango rice ever.   Yumm!

Nagib and I talked about our why for walking every year. We do it to give back and to raise awareness for the life-saving cancer research that is happening right here at the Princess Margaret.  I am seeing personally how research can yield new treatments and prolong life. Like many others, I am living with an incurable cancer, multiple myeloma.  Over the past 10 years or so, there have been tremendous advances in the treatment of myeloma, and overall progression-free survival has doubled due to the introduction of new therapies.  I have had two stem-cell transplants, which is the maximum number of transplants allowed (except under highly exceptional circumstances).  Sometimes, I wonder what will happen when the myeloma makes a comeback, likely in the next two years.  There will be no more stem cell transplants to rely on.   I will likely be put on an immunomodulatory drug, a monoclonal antibody and the infamous dexamethasone, with severe side-effects.  Two friends of mine are currently on a promising new treatment for myeloma called Bite (bispecific T cell engager) which helps the body’s immune system target cancer cells.  This is currently in phase 1 of research, and made possible because of your generous donations.

Today was the perfect day to give gratitude for life, to say a prayer for those who have lost their battle with cancer, and to stumble upon unexpected delights like parks in the middle of the city, cool neighbourhoods, and sticky mango rice that defies description. 

Thank you to everyone for your generous support today and over the years. We truly appreciate it and pray that you may be rewarded for your generosity many times over. If you have not yet contributed and would like to do so, please click here:  https://supportthepmcf.ca/theweekend/munira.

I also invite you to watch a short video I recorded for the launch of the Walk this morning:

With gratitude,
Munira.

Double Blessings!

Double Blessings!

Ever since we found out in October 2020 that Sabrina and Afzal were having a baby, our hearts swelled and we felt a joy that was so immense, so powerful, that it felt it would eat us up.  A few days later, we got a call from Shayne and Cherrelle who live in Nairobi, with the news that they are also expecting a baby.  Our hearts expanded exponentially as we contemplated becoming grandparents, twice over, in a single month. 

Fast forward to June 9, 2021, when we warmly welcomed Mos Malik, Shayne and Cherrelle’s baby.  And on June 28, Amaal Noor, Sabrina and Afzal’s baby, made her debut into the world.  Both babies, born in love beyond words.  We are still in the haze of the newborn phase.  Seeing Amaal practically every day, and finally meeting Mos face-to-face as he made the long trek to Toronto from Kenya with his parents in August, has given our lives a new purpose.  We are wildly in love with our grandchildren who have turned our lives upside down. 

Everything is so different from when we had babies some 30 years ago.  Now its about the huckleberry app to track feeding time, strollers that transform into car seats, electric breast pumps, the Baby Bjorn to rock the baby, bassinets that emulate the sound of the mom’s womb, Facebook Marketplace to source everything baby.  Our vocabulary has increased a thousand-fold as we learn new words like nipple trauma, swaddling, cluster feeding, the breast friend, tummy time and white noise.

We witness our children cope with exhaustion, sleep, hormones, feeding, pumping, and celebrate with them as they perceive the wonder of what they have conceived.  We listen with amazement as they talk to each other about the parents they aspire to be and their hopes for their little Timbits, Chicken Nuggets, Cookies.

Being grandparents gives us a different vantage point.  Because we are not in the throes of parenting and the fatigue that comes from it, we get to savour the experience and enjoy every single precious moment.  We spend hours watching Amaal as she contorts her face, stares at an object with intense focus, yawns with abandon, sticks out her tongue and curls her lips with attitude.  We applaud her as she burps and farts.  We revel in giving her massages and baths.  We marvel at Mos’s happy demeanor and big, wide smiles.  We listen to him as he engages us in delightful baby conversations that seem to go on and on.  In the 3 weeks he was with us, before leaving for Nairobi, we saw him take his first deep laugh.  It is said that in the Navajo tradition, the Navajo people celebrate a baby’s first laugh with a special family party, called a First Laugh Ceremony (A’wee Chi’deedloh).   Their belief is that the first time a baby laughs, the child is transcending their spiritual existence and is ready to live with their family.  We are just thrilled to bits that Amaal and Mos, through God’s infinite mercy and blessings, have become a part of our family.

There is something unexplainable at the marvel of holding your own child’s, baby.  It is the cycle of life manifested.  The love we feel is so intense, it is almost painful.  Amaal is just over two months old; Mos is 3 weeks older.  And we love them around the whole world and back.

Choosing Hope: Living Courageously Through Adversity Season 2

It was with much trepidation that I embarked on my journey to become a podcast host during the COVID pandemic. I pored through materials, took a course on what it takes to have a great podcast, talked to people who had experience doing podcasts, and spent a long time coming up with the concept and name of the podcast. Nervously I invited guests, not quite sure why they would want to take a chance on a new podcast. It was a nerve-wrecking, exhilarating time of experimenting and fine-tuning.

The first podcast I did was with a henna artist extraordinaire, Tarquin Singh. The first recording was a colossal fail. After a great conversation with Tarquin, and as we were high-fiving each other, I realized that I had forgotten to press “record” and the interview was lost. I was shame-faced and confessed this to Tarquin. After one minute of pregnant pause, Tarquin said she was okay to be re-interviewed for the podcast. She did and I was floored by her grace and kindness.

I then interviewed some extraordinary people on a variety of topics: Martha Southgate, Dionne Warner, Ana Tajder, Aziz Velji, Ursula Pottinga, Dr. Navaz Habib, Ann Betz, Cherrelle Druppers and Leila Keshavjee. The podcasts have been downloaded over 800 times, which is not a lot but it is more than I had expected. Now I am recording podcasts for Season 2!

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#ChoosingHopeChallenge

Hello everyone!  To herald 2021, I want to invite you to participate in the #ChoosingHopeChallenge. The vision of this challenge is to shift the communal energy towards gratitude and hope to bring in the new year. 

2020 was a year of pause, of reflection, of introspection.  COVID-19 altered life as we knew it and created disruption, confusion and challenges. It was also an epic time of transformation and learning to do things differently. As we begin a brand new year, there is renewed hope and reason to be optimistic with the development of vaccines.

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