Sumaira Akram

sumaira akramMy belief that all life rests in the hands of Allah gave me the courage to fight cancer. I recall that in the winter of 2007, after I had returned from Haj, I started to feel weakness and pain in my legs and back. I sought a number of opinions and treatments but nothing seemed to work and eventually I became confined to bed. Even then I had hope that if He brought me to it, He will also take me through it.

I lost my job teaching English Literature as a result of being unable to work. I underwent an MRI, which raised the suspicion of cancer and this was subsequently confirmed on bone marrow biopsy, which showed that I had non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. My parents were shattered by the news that their young daughter had such a deadly disease. What now and where would we get the money to support my treatment? My parents were both retired, and by this time, I had also lost my job. The situation looked hopeless. Even though I was determined to fight for my life, on the inside I felt that only a miracle could save me.

Against all odds, the miracle did happen. That miracle was Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital and Research Centre, a name that we had heard so much about. Maybe they would help us. Luckily I was accepted for treatment and met my oncologist, Dr. Neelam Siddiqui, for the first time on October 17th, 2007. She explained that under normal circumstances non-Hodgkins lymphoma was curable, but that my disease was more advanced and so she was not quite so optimistic about the outcome. I explained that I wanted to start the treatment as soon as possible, believing as I did that the result was in God’s hands and that taking treatment was also a sunnat. I was ready, no matter what the outcome. Dr. Neelam was inspired by my determination and my treatment began without delay. Money was simply never an issue  because, like the majority of the other patients being treated at the Hospital, my treatment was paid for by the generous donations of the well-wishers of Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital.

At first, I responded very well to the chemotherapy I received, but then one of my blood tests, a tumour marker called CA125, started to increase and my medical team became worried. My spleen also started to enlarge. Eventually, after several other tests, Dr. Neelam suggested that I ought to consider undergoing a bone marrow transplantation procedure. This would involve further, more intense, chemotherapy, with greater attendant risks, but also meant the possibility of a cure. Once again, I was ready to accept the challenge and I underwent bone marrow transplantation in 2008. I did suffer some of the side effects associated with this treatment, including various serious infections but, by the grace of Allah, I not only recovered from cancer but I have also re-started my job. I have left cancer behind me, but I will never forget my doctors, nurses and, indeed, the entire staff who supported me through the toughest experience of my life. Whenever I share the stories of the Hospital with my friends and tell them how kind and loving the staff is, I can see them wondering whether I am talking about a hospital or a fairyland!

Sumaira Akram

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