By Sheena Hussain
A cancer diagnosis can often leave you feeling at a crossroad: do you continue living your life as it was pre-cancer, or do you undergo a complete overhaul?
That’s the dilemma that I faced. However, for me, it was a relatively easy decision; it was a chance to renew and replenish my faith, which thank God I had before my diagnosis and was firmly etched into my daily routine and life. I knew that the cancer marked something but it took a while for me to decipher what that something was. It’s only until after you get over the initial shock of being handed the ‘label’ of cancer do you slowly start to make any kind of sense of, and unfold the multifaceted makeup of a health adversity as large as the ‘Big C’. It also marked a new beginning, like a fresh sheet of page in a new journal, I was given a chance to rewrite my life by Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala)—Allahu Akbar!
The key to keeping me mentally focused throughout the whole process was using my Islaam as a backdrop to understand why Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala), the Most Wise, chose me to undergo this big test. Let’s be honest- whenever something happens in our life the first question we ask ourselves is, “Why me God?”
So, why me then?
Islam teaches us that we will constantly be tried in this world, whether that be through our health, spouse, children, or our wealth: He wants to test and see whether we will rise to the trial in a loving manner towards Him, or become rebellious to the point where we move away from deen and seek answers to our trials elsewhere.
Indeed, my Creator had the best view over me: He knew that a career in law was becoming somewhat dry, and the profession itself brought a whole host of injustices; unequal pay, discrimination – that I was not getting satisfaction and often felt deflated. I’m not married and neither do I have children, so in effect no new path could be born out of the latter two strands.
A new path was being paved out for me, but I had to go through the cancer in order to find myself firmly on it— how His plans are the best! Through my adversity I was also able to discover and re- connect to my creative side, which in hindsight I think was there all along. I have always enjoyed keeping my own diary of personal thoughts since I can remember, one of my poems was selected and published in a book and I have always loved reading, so I think the seed of creativity was sown a long time ago.
My new beginning helped me connect to my childhood. I had a very happy childhood and was able to recall so vividly my childhood memories and connect to them as if I was living them right there in that very moment. I decided to capture them, and as I did I realised this would be the start of my new poetic journey. Memory is a very special gift from Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala), a repository of personal stories which I believe holds the key to unlocking yourself.
Since the birth of my new beginning I have done a whole host of things: I was able to self-publish my debut poetry book; set up a new online poetry business and even rolled out a new local poetry competition.
My sentiments are that I now have a new status in life—‘self-employed’, I can decide how and when I work. I love giving myself the time to network and I am finding that this is giving me a chance to engage and serve my local Muslim community. I feel my new beginning has given me a much deeper purpose in life which perhaps was missing before. This path feels right, this path was for me—this path is me!
I am also using this new beginning that has been bestowed upon me to revisit my childhood asking myself if there is anything that I missed out on. There was one thing— riding a bike—as a child I never learnt; as cycling is meant to be good for your overall health I decided to take it up. Three lessons in and I can say I am well balanced and feel so empowered riding a bike! I was so overjoyed that I had to write a poem about it, if you dig deep sisters you will see it is more about the cycle of life than it is about cycling.
Riding is tough
Well it would be
At my age.
You see the pedalling was delayed
Like many things in life:
Mobile phone, Amstrad,
Learning how to steer
A car that is;
Try steering when you a load
the brutality to bear, all by yourself.
You learn the hard way
No one teaches you about
Not a subject worth teaching.
It’s an upward struggle with these
Modern day pedals
I’m desperately trying to hold on
Watching and keeping
An eye on those beaten tracks
I still carry out the ‘M check’
But it’s inevitable
I will come off
My freedom curtailed
As the stokes whistle
To the Wind
Now is not the time
Thank you cancer for giving me a new lease of life, I don’t know how long the tenure is on this one, but sisters, do any of us know how long our tenure of life is? No, of course we don’t! Therefore, we should be grateful for what is presented to us. My dear sisters in Islam, I know you will all be going through your own set of adversities, however, I pray that this article offers you hope and guidance and that you find comfort in my narrative and are able to unlock your own trials.
Remember an adversity is simply an intimate dialogue between you and Allah, so engage fully and watch Him whisper the solutions to you- upon you is simply to act upon them. May Allah make every adversity the beginning of something new for all of us, bi’ithnillah ta’ala.
About the Author:
Sheena is a budding self-published poet; her second collection of poetry “Divinity Lost and Found” is due out summer 2019. By profession she is a non-practising solicitor, a carer to her mama. She is championing cancer among BAME communities. You can learn more about her at www.poetrybysheenapoetrybyname.com and on Instagram.
Sheena would like to dedicate this article to Sister Nicola Braund – Thank you.