Iqbal, Sidra – Surviving Mesothelioma

Iqbal, Sidra

When my mother was at her worst suffering from cancer in the year 2005, looking at the rock sitting on the table beside her bed made me realize how strong this woman was, just like the rock next to her. In Islam, the duty of a Muslim is to purify one’s self with water and perform prayer five times a day. Since my mother’s condition did not allow her to take frequent trips to the bathroom, she used the rock to purify herself. She allowed herself no excuse for missing the five prayers. Watching her having trouble breathing with the tube in her nose and hearing the excess fluid building inside of her with her each breath, I couldn’t help but think how much longer she would suffer from this horrible illness. Despite her condition, my mother was patient with her pain. But I was not. The thought of my mother dying was like my backbone being ripped from my body, but I was willing to start my pain just so her pain could end. I learned patience through pain from my mother.

Rhio O’Connor, however, teaches us to take action in the face of tragedy. In the midst of great pain, one can sit back and suffer or one can go forward and be motivated to fight. My mother’s fight was prayer and my fight, inspired by Rhio O’Connor, goes a step further with taking action. Even though when my mother was dying, I was only sixteen and unconsciously I took the steps that I wish someone would take for me. The thing that was helping my mother’s soul to be at peace was the rock and my mother’s five prayers throughout the day. My role had to be more active and revolved around making sure my mother performed these prayers at the correct time. Being heavily drugged with morphine, my mother would fall into a deep sleep without being aware of the time and surroundings. At times when I would wake her for a prayer, she would look at me with a confused expression wondering where she was. She would also wake up and not recognize family members, but as soon as she looked at me she would recognize me and ask me to comfort her, whether it was with feeding her an ice cube or reciting a passage from the Quran to ease her mind and heart. The first step I would take if I were diagnosed with a cancer prognosis would be to find a caregiver who would ask me what I wanted, and not what I needed. Depending on my wishes that person would help me with my prayers or an even more active approach.

In order to gain further insight about my situation, I would educate myself, just like O’Connor. I would aggressively learn all the details, symptoms, and treatments about the disease in order to prepare my mind and body for it. Once I am mentally prepared, then being physically prepared will follow. I would research this disease thoroughly and learn about the things I should and should not do. I would also regularly touch base with my doctor in order to maintain my health. Taking the doctor’s recommendations toward getting better is important. Most treatments recommended are chemotherapy, surgery, and radiation. Observing the suffering of chemo from my mother, I would be hesitant to try it. My research would help me weigh the pros and cons of that therapy. Probably, I would seek alternative treatments.

If the cons turn out to be heavy for chemo then I would be willing to try a number of alternative treatments available such as massage therapy, acupuncture, and meditation. Regular situations get humans stressed to an extreme level and when one is hit with the news of cancer, then the stress level triples and the body releases chemicals that do not tend to cooperate with the rest of the body. Alternative treatments that focus on relaxing the body are vital to fight off the disease. Meditation is one of the most important and magical ways of healing. At night when it got quiet, I practiced a form of meditation in order to absorb and accept the situation. This allowed me to gather my strength and patience for my mother in the morning. The spiritual connection a person has truly helps them become stronger and fight the battle of life. Having a very strong faith and connection with God, I feel like my faith would be my biggest treatment. Thinking about God and praying to Him puts me in a stage of ultimate relaxation, motivates me, and gives me strength to a point where I can take on anything in life. If I were the patient, a positive mindset such as this would strengthen my mind and body and hopefully play a major role in fighting off the disease.

Another way to keep a positive mindset for myself would be to surround myself with other patients who have been diagnosed with the same disease. It is human nature to find comfort with people who share the same experiences. This support group would give me strength, patience, and a better understanding of my situation. Last, but not least, the biggest support group would be found in my loved ones. People who truly care about me and love me would be there every step of the way and would do the best they can to support and comfort me. I know; I was one of them.

By having the support, care, and love from my loved ones and my support group, I would take the initiative and get involved in spreading the word and educating people about the danger of asbestos as the cause of cancer. Mesothelioma cancer is a rare type of disease and may be unknown to most people. My target would be people who work around asbestos. If such a job is going to cause deadly harm to the workers, it should not be allowed. There should be safety measures and the creation of an attitude of safety in industry and government. I would form an advocacy group for the safety of these people. This group would take a great amount of work, organization, and strength and I would be willing to make it happen. The purpose for a group like this would be to be aware of the damages and the steps people can take to be proactive with their health. The support of specialists of this disease would be essential, so I would collaborate with them. Having a cause to help people who are afflicted with this disease or those who can be prevented would be my next biggest motivation after meditation. Helping people is something that comes naturally to me and is something that I would be willing to do regardless of my situation. When most people are diagnosed with a terminal illness, they give up hope the second they hear about it, which takes their mind to a negative place. When there is a purpose involved, it keeps the patients looking forward to something and this motivates them to fight the disease in order to live another day. O’Connor knew this. First, comes the deep relaxation of the mind that enables it to find strength, patience, and motivation, then a group like this would motivate me to keep fighting for a cause that is bigger than I, just like in the case of Rhio O’Connor.

Rhio O’Connor was a strong individual who survived a deadly cancer known as mesothelioma and his story of survival inspires me. Learning one has a terminal illness causes hurt and enables the weak part of a person to dominate. But instead of weakness, O’Connor tackled his illness head on. His motivation alone inspires me and makes me wonder at the incredible mindset he must have had to keep fighting. This mindset, coupled with my mother’s patient faith, would allow me to accept my pain with taqdeer, which is to accept the situation as it is written, and yet allow me to fight it.

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