Life with Cancer

A lot of good news came to me this week, one of it is being told I was chosen to be Malaysia’s very own femaleMagazine’s Guest Blogger! Something that I never imagined would happen in my life whatsoever, so naturally as my first post I had a bit of writer’s block on what to write. I can only assume this is how all the magazine writers feel when they need to write an article with a deadline.

Ami 1

Part of WIWT (what I wore today) 2010 summary – February 2010

Let me tell you a story about myself, one that may have been repeated over and over again. Hello, I am Ami Schaheera, a full-time blogger at amischaheera.com. How did I become a full time blogger? Certainly by fate and chance, I studied Computer Science in uni and worked as a Server & Software Engineer at Sony for several years. A month after my wedding in May 2010, I was diagnosed with Acute Myleoid Leukemia, a white blood cell disorder – a type of cancer.

Ami 2

2nd April 2010

As you may guess, my world came tumbling down; everything was a blur and my future seemed non-existent. I told my husband to find someone else. I told the doctors just do whatever you want. I’m all in. Four chemo cycles later, whilst doing a search for a match with my stem cell for a stem cell transplant, which failed eventually, they found no match. I got out of the hospital with only skin and bones, bruises and scars everywhere, and a bald head all thanks to the side effects of chemo. I looked into the mirror and I couldn’t recognise myself. But my spirit was high; my husband took a 6-month leave to take care of me post-chemo.

Ami 3

Uniform for months – with the occasional sweater, beanie and proper matching socks

We started an online business together (shop.sptnkswthrt.com), I was supposedly the designer and he did everything else. The business took off tremendously well; lots of support from random people and strangers since I was diagnosed stuck through. I got to know so many people who were going through the same thing I was, and the world became less scary and daunting. However, the stress of maintaining the business got to me, and in April 2011 my cancer relapsed. I went into the hospital again for one last chemo. I say last because this is the only chemo they can give – the strongest chemo that my body can handle. If I somehow relapsed again after this, then there was nothing else the doctors can do to help. Honestly, I was so angry that it relapsed; I was doing so well! But I was probably in denial. I was stressed and I didn’t realise it. The doctors asked if I had suicidal feelings and sent me to to see a psychiatrist. I scoffed. I don’t think I needed any help.

Compared to the four long chemo cycles that I endured calmly, I was very much agitated to get out of the hospital as quickly as I could this time, but ironically, this cycle felt longer. I said I was okay about the whole thing, I acted like I was strong but I probably wasn’t. After I got out, I decided not to continue our business and just take time to collect myself and concentrate solely on blogging. To the world, I acted all fine and dandy. I’ve been blogging since 2008 but got more followers when my friends and I started selling clothes online as a hobby, and got even more followers after the diagnose of my demise.

Ami 4

Telling the world about my whole experience became therapy for me, especially when I received positive feedback and motivation from my readers. You don’t know how strong you are until being strong is your only option, right? Well, after my relapse, I felt like that was probably my last straw. I went on with life, I finally quit my job at Sony after a two-year leave and my role in society is now as a blogger and housewife. Turns out God had better plans; I started donning hijab after my four cycles of chemo. It wasn’t easy – I love fashion, and to marry faith and fashion and make it effortless is so difficult! Luckily, once I announced my change to the world, I received a lot of support and even gifts of scarves to help me build my wardrobe. I feel so lucky to be a woman and have all these sisters alongside me in my struggles, regardless of our age and looks.

I found my place again in life; I started digging more into muslimah fashion and tried to modernise it without losing its modest quality. I worked as a freelance stylist, for numerous projects including Malaysia’s own celebrity, Natasha Hudson’s label, styled Shila Amzah for Hijabista magazine cover and was even invited to Wanita Hari Ini TV3’s show as a stylist for the Jovian Mandagie raya collection. Life was peachy, really! 2012 was my year! I was busy again; I was invited to almost every fashion event possible in the city. Was featured in many magazines for my street style, as a blogger and for my story with cancer. I felt empowered; I was on my high horse running about town.

Ami 5

I wanted more in life, I felt like I could live forever… I began to neglect my health care. I felt like I was absolute. And just like that, God showed me how wrong I was – in March 2013, I went for a check-up and found out that my cancer came back again. I was alone when I went for the check-up because hubby was away on a business trip. My first time ever going to a doctor’s appointment without him and they dropped the bomb on me. I immediately fell into deep depression; it’s like falling down a black hole infinitely. I didn’t inform my family until a month or two later. As I mentioned earlier, if the cancer came back for the second time, the doctors couldn’t do anything to help. So this was it. The doctors suggested I go through a half match stem cell transplant; it had a very high risk and chances of recovering are smaller than going through a full match transplant. It’s like getting an organ that isn’t compatible with your body, chances are the body might find that organ as an intruder and reject it.

Without a doubt, I rejected their idea. For a few months I was living like a zombie, mourning my fate and pondering whether I still can fight this like I had before. There was nothing solid for me to grasp on to. Hope seemed too far along… I didn’t get out of the house, I stopped socialising, I rejected event invitations and most social encounters, I binged eat myself on the couch, I was missing from the scene for a few months. Whenever someone asked I would avoid the issue. I told no one except my very close friends about my relapse. Which was so unlike me, the blogger who documented and told everything to the internet world.

I fell really ill in May 2013, after I came back from visiting my in-laws in Miri. I felt like my body couldn’t recover by itself and every small sickness tortured me to no end. I was really afraid if this was the end of my journey. I chanced upon a good friend who turned me to naturopathy. I purged myself of toxins with detox, I did my own research and found out about people who have cured themselves from cancer through juicing and a very healthy diet of fruit, veggies and herbs. I went back to the basics, I re-wired my food philosophy which used to be “Live to Eat” to “Eat to Live”. I bought a juicing machine, I banned sugar and fast food, avoided processed foods, and just ate fresh, phyto nutrient food brimming with anti-oxidants.

Slowly, my body fought through all the sicknesses, even though it took me a whole month to recover, but I did it! Without the help of chemical drugs, just simple pure fresh food. I thought I wouldn’t make it, but having felt my body change to the better is like a miracle! The definition of white blood cell disorder itself is having supremely high quantities of white blood cells that causes your immune system to become weak and unable fight off infections! So there is hope, and up until this very second, I am still a firm believer and practitioner of ‘food is medicine’. Every single day is a new day for me now, whilst I’m still breathing, it only means that God is still giving me a fighting chance.

Ami 6

Celebrated my 29th birthday last August, Alhamdulillah

Although some of my readers are aware of my changes in diet, and of me sharing my everyday smoothies and eat clean recipes, but perhaps no one knows the real reason behind them. Honestly, by eating good food, my mind is clearer, my thoughts are better and improved, I’ve never been sick since, there has been no more emotional turmoil every time miss P comes visiting, my skin is thanking me, and even hubby doesn’t have migraine like he used to!

When I opened up myself to eating healthy, I found a lot of people who are into naturopathy and eating healthy for different reasons, and I feel like I’m not alone. There’s a whole new world out there waiting for me to discover. Previously, I wouldn’t have even bothered with healthy food, but now, it’s so interesting to know and feel for yourself the goodness of life. All I gotta say is, sometimes you feel like there’s nothing else that you can do, but when there is hope, there comes a way (or a thousand kinds of ways!) to help you get through it as long as you have faith.

There, I’ve finally said it. My cancer is back for the second time, is probably still lingering around somewhere, or perhaps I’ve put it to sleep with my healthy diet regime. Who knows? The most important part is, I’m still here, I have not given up and I’m fighting…

Maybe next time, I’ll share a few recipes, aye? ;)