Body, Mind and Soul (part trois)

in Health & Wellness July 1, 2021

I remember the moment so vividly.  It was May 2006.  My husband and I were on our way back home, after spending a weekend in Bali to celebrate his birthday, when I received a call from my sister.  That call changed my life forever.

My baby sister’s weak voice through the phone, telling me that she has been diagnosed with cancer!  I was stunned, speechless. All I remember was my world in a spin, turning so fast.  I screamed with tears.  I was uncontrollable.

My sister was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma – it’s a type of cancer that originates in your lymphatic system. 

What is lymphatic system, you may ask?  Lymphatic system is a network of tissues and organs that help rid the body of toxins, waste and other unwanted materials.

A year or so before her diagnosis, I remember noticing a swollen node in her neck, but she used to wear bulky necklaces to cover it.  She was also losing weight, which I thought was normal as she was very careful with her food, and was constantly on a diet. Personally (then), I was also very absorbed with work.  I just remarried, and my social life was in full swing, that I didn’t pay much attention to the closest in my life.  I was in the state of me, myself and I.  I should have asked her to go for a check-up, but I didn’t.

The doctors told me that my sister had a few months to live – maybe six months, or maybe one year tops.  Knowing that the inevitable was approaching with a ‘timeline’, was sorrowful beyond belief.  I couldn’t imagine my life without her.

We were close, my baby sister and I.  We shared many secrets between us – they were so closely guarded, that I cannot remember most of them anymore!  However, when I started my consulting job in the mid-90s, we drifted apart as I was hardly in Malaysia.  During that time, I missed many birthdays and even a few Hari Rayas, as I was always away on various consulting projects abroad.

I felt that I owed it to her, to spend the last few months with her.  So, with a heavy heart, I decided to leave the job (that I loved), to care for her.  My new husband was very supportive of my decision, and I felt blessed that he understood the situation I was in.

I was with my sister at every chemotherapy and radiotherapy sessions, stem cell treatments, and at almost every doctors’ appointments in between.  I witnessed how she struggled.  There were good days, but there were more bad days.  The strain and the load, caring for a loved one, was affecting me physically, psychologically, and emotionally. I was crying incessantly, as I know we were on borrowed time. I was feeling lost and helpless.  I needed a refuge – that was when my husband suggested that we go to Mecca to perform our Umrah.  I had never been to Mecca.

I knew that I needed a sense of connection to something bigger than myself.  A religious and spiritual awakening, of some sort.  I prayed.  I prayed like I never prayed before, wholeheartedly. 

I believe that my prayers were answered.  My sister lived way beyond the doctors’ predicted time.  She passed away three years after, in 2009, two months after we celebrated her 38th birthday.  The three years that we were together, we spent a lot of time reconnecting.  We managed to take trips together, both abroad and locally.  Went for good meals, although she had difficulty swallowing, most of the time.  We had good laughs and also great sadness.

Since the passing of my sister, my mind was searching for answers to all my questions. I began to see relationships differently.  I learn never to take time for granted, never to put our loved ones on hold.  We should never be too busy for our family, for the people we love.  If we do, it may be too late.  I also began to believe that everything happens for a reason, and virtuous things emerge from dust of our sorrows.

My sister’s passing has brought me closer to my creator. I find solace in my prayers.  I find peace, five times a day, because it makes my soul at ease.  It was the beginning of my spiritual journey.

My sister would have turned 50 two weeks ago.  Although the sadness is still there, whenever I think of her, but I know she is no longer in pain.

Alfatihah Awin.


In memory of a loving daughter, sister, mother, aunty ….. and soon-to-be grand-aunty

Allahyarhamah Sharifah Noor Mazwin binti Syed Kamaruddin Jamalullail

(June 18, 1971 – August 10, 2009)