Menu Close

I have cancer

September 11, 2014

I have not been able to escape those three little words.

I have cancer.

I have cancer.

I have cancer.

Ever since the diagnosis was confirmed two months ago, those words have been floating around in my mind. In the beginning, whenever I woke up, a new wave of emotion would hit me. I would lie still, with my head against the pillow with a raw, sore feeling building in my chest. The pain would intensify until I needed to verbalize my pain.  I would then whisper to myself, as if I was telling myself a secret, I have cancer.

I needed to repeat those words to myself. I needed to be the one saying them.


On July 3, 2014, my doctor confirmed that I have cancer.

I have deliberated whether this particular journey is something that I want to share. This is a personal decision and I needed to figure out whether sharing my experiences might help or hurt me. In the first days after my diagnosis, I found a good ally in a website blog called Just Cancer. I sought out sources of information because I wanted the knowledge. I wanted to feel prepared and in control. I wanted to know what to expect. Especially at a time when it felt like nothing was my choice. The blogger spoke about her reaction and emotions. I realized that I wanted a human perspective, and that all the stats and facts the doctors were throwing at me weren’t enough. If sharing my journey can help someone not feel alone, then it I think it’s probably worth it.

Writing is how I process my thoughts. I could always just write without sharing, but somehow that feels like a cop out, at least for me.  When I received the diagnosis, my family was concerned about whether to tell people or not. This came from a genuinely concerned place. I couldn’t understand it at the time, but trust me when I say it’s complicated. And then I thought, hey, another interesting lens to explore health issues, cultural values and stigma. Cancer doesn’t have nearly the bad reputation as HIV/AIDS does, mainly because it’s non-communicable. And yet, I’ve realized there’s still sRibbons for Cancer although Cancer is more than a Ribbonome hush hush around it, at least in certain circles.

People tend not to talk about the bad and difficult things. But you know what, life is not all Facebook happy. I have realized that I don’t want to present some edited version of myself. I have good days and I have bad days. Bad stuff happens. I don’t think it is helpful to turn away from the difficult topics. I am not talking doomsday pessimism, but a healthy dose of realism can go a long way.

I told my mum that, in a way, I was very well-prepared to receive a cancer diagnosis. It helped that I had worked with children and families living with cancer. It helped that I received training around language sensitivity, people’s reactions to the diagnosis and so on. I don’t think that’s something a mother should ever have to hear, but I was trying to look on the bright side.

When I wrote my book, Dancing in the Rain, little did I realize that it would so soon serve as a source of comfort once again in my life. I think of it as a time capsule of my 17-year old self and I think I need to give her a little more credit. Once again, she’s given me some perspective. The book is now by my desk again as a reminder to live through life’s challenges.

I can’t promise thoroughly proofread pieces with complex thematic analyses. Nor can I promise consistent updates. But I will say this – what I write will be honest. If I feel like sharing, I will. I don’t want to go into a place where I shut out the world, although I need to accept that it is a possibility and that if it happens, it’s okay. I know I need some sort of plan as I go through this process and through recovery. I also know I need to be flexible.

Hopefully, together, these posts will start to make sense and come together like the pieces of a puzzle.  At least, that’s the plan.


  1. Pingback: One Year With Cancer | Nadha Hassen | Public Health, Social Justice & All Things Community

  2. Pingback: Weighty Issues: Learning to Appreciate My New Body | Nadha Hassen | Public Health, Social Justice & All Things Community

  3. Pingback: Cancer Transitions: Cancer Is My Past, Present and Future | Nadha Hassen | Public Health, Social Justice & All Things Community

  4. Pingback: Self-Advocacy & Allies | Nadha Hassen | Public Health, Social Justice & All Things Community

  5. Pingback: Hypothyroidism | Nadha Hassen | Public Health, Social Justice & All Things Community

  6. Pingback: It’s Okay to Say “Cancer” | Nadha Hassen | Public Health, Social Justice & All Things Community

  7. Pingback: The Power of Cancer Awareness | Nadha Hassen | Public Health, Social Justice & All Things Community

  8. Pingback: Scars, Steroids and Self-Esteem | Nadha Hassen | Public Health, Social Justice & All Things Community

  9. a friend

    Hey Nadha as sad as it is to say, I didn’t know u were such a talented writer! It breaks my heart to hear of such news, at the same time I think there is always a positive and a negative in everything, congratulations on the marriage! I know Anu will always be there to hold u up when your feeling down. I have been dealing with my own media am problems this past year, I’ve never experienced a seizure before the age of 24 and I know it is uncomparable to cancer, it did throw me off my feet. At the same time it helped me realize how valuable the people around me really are and for that I’m forever greatful. As for you I can only imagine the same if not more love and care around u and like I said Anu is something in comparison to the sun,undescribable but a necessity for life, revitalization, and warmth, something irreplacable . wish u a positive and progressive road to beat it! I will keep you and your family in my thoughts and prayers ^__^

    • Nadha

      Thanks so much and you’re absolutely right, Anu has been more than I could I have hoped for especially given the circumstances. A seizure is life-altering, so don’t dismiss it. I’m glad that you have a good support system and you’re always welcome to stop by or get in touch. See you soon hopefully!

  10. Anonymous

    I hope you find this as a source of strength:

    ‘Allah does not burden any human being with more than he can bear’ – Surah Baqarah – Verse 286

    ‘Verily, with every hardship there is ease’ – Surah Inshirah – Verse 7

    Life is a strange thing, unique to each individual, beautiful in each perception. Maintain your courage through these parts of your journey. And so, this too shall soon pass.

    Keep smiling.

  11. Ramzeen

    Be a darling and let me know exactly what the problem is – I don’t want to keep guessing. Being in Canada you’re sure to get the best of medical attention. I draw confidence from how my cousin Mahsoom came through with even his bone marrow transplant.

    • Nadha

      Although I messaged you privately about this, here was the link to the exact diagnosis ->

      You know, I sometimes don’t know how great the medical attention in Canada is. The process is so long and often unnecessarily complicated. A blog post on that is probably in order.
      I am glad your cousin is doing well now though.

  12. Sarah S

    Salaams, Nadha.
    I didn’t quite know how to reach you because I haven’t been on Facebook for some time now. My mom and dad shared this link with me, so I’m happy I can communicate with you again!
    First, I’d like to congratulate you on your marriage! I am so happy that your dream came true :). May God bless you both and keep you happy always.
    Second, I am truly saddened by the news you shared above. I am amazed by your strength and I am here if you need me – always. I will be praying hard for God to strengthen you further, and heal you, my dear girl.
    Lastly, Hash doesn’t remember many of my relatives; however, he became fond of you since you visited last :). He will be praying for you too, of course! Please visit us whenever you feel like it.
    You can contact me through email ( or call/text too. Sending you so much love, prayers and well wishes xoxo ♡

  13. Ramzeen

    I love the sweet, unspoiled, ethereal you and in light of recent events and pure selfishness to keep you in the here and now; I hope it’s one that you’ll beat. I’m also sure that having Khadim at your side (was he aware at the outset?) is akin to having a knight in shining armor. May Allah make this a test you’ll easily pass.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *